The Falmouth Select Board has approved next year’s capital plan, more than half of which is earmarked for affordable housing. Other large projects being paid for from the $7.32 million capital plan include an estimated $1.7 million for renovating the Falmouth police station and $1.35 million to purchase recycling carts.
Replacing the town’s CAD (computer-aided dispatch) and station alerting system, road construction projects, activating the Fresh Pond well and possibly demolishing barns on the town-owned Tony Andrews Farm property are also up for consideration.
The select board at its Monday, August 30, meeting unanimously voted its support of the plan. The proposal next goes to the finance committee for vetting.
Falmouth Finance Director Jennifer Mullen said certified free cash, which supports the capital budget, is larger this year than anticipated. Despite some financial losses from the ongoing impact of the pandemic, the town collected $1,102,565 more in local receipts than it did the previous year.
Local receipts include excise taxes, revenues from the recreation and library departments, and water and trash collection charges.
Some $4 million is earmarked for workforce housing and would be placed in the town’s affordable housing fund that can be used to subsidize the building of affordable homes.
“I am thrilled that we can do that. There is such a need for housing,” select board member Nancy R. Taylor said.
The police station renovations include retrofitting the layout to make it safer and more user friendly. Town Meeting rejected the $1.2 million article last April for the renovations after the finance committee members said they did not have enough information to analyze the cost estimate, which had been given to them just hours before Town Meeting. The estimate is now $1.7 million, Ms. Mullen said.
The recycling carts have a 95-gallon capacity that would be used by residents for curbside recycling pickup, public works director Peter M. McConarty said. The town in November will begin negotiating with Republic Services for a contract renewal ahead of the contract terminating in May. Mr. McConarty said the carts would automate the recycling pickup, since the trucks already have an arm that can pick up the carts.
“It would be a faster and safer pickup, and would help us negotiate with Republic,” Mr. McConarty said.
The wastewater treatment plant needs to be upgraded ahead of sewering the Teaticket-Acapesket area, Ms. Mullen said. However, instead of using capital funds, the town will use federal ARPA funds. The town was awarded $3.2 million in federal grant money under the American Rescue Plan Act, $1.7 million of which the town is proposing to spend on plant designs.
The replacement of the Teaticket Elementary School roof will be up for consideration at the November Town Meeting. The cost is estimated at $3.7 million, with a 30 percent—approximately $1.3 million—reimbursement from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Construction would begin next summer, Ms. Mullen said. A debt exclusion was already approved by voters last May.
When discussing the operating budget policy for next year, which guides how the budget is formed, select board member Samuel H. Patterson was concerned climate change and coastal resiliency were not included.
“We are not addressing significant issues that can affect many of our citizens,” he said. “What are we doing in the way of staffing to help us plan for sea level rise?”
Ms. Mullen said the budget policy does not include specific policies taken by the select board, and those policies should be given to the town manager as directives from the board.
“But these issues are in our strategic plan and not reflected in the budget,” Mr. Patterson said. “We lucked out with Henri, but it could have been more like a Hurricane Bob with a lot of damage to municipal facilities and to private property.”
After Ms. Mullen pointed out that there is $170,000 in the budget for coastal resiliency, select board chairman Douglas C. Brown suggested looking at hiring a specialist to guide the town in preparing for sea level rise. He noted the Falmouth Coastal Resiliency Committee just submitted its report and suggested the board discuss the findings at its next meeting.
“Hopefully can look at the report and discuss at an upcoming meeting what action to take, perhaps hiring a coastal resilience specialist,” he said.