Nicole Antonucci/Recorder staff Montgomery County legislators Martin Kelly, Thomas Quackenbush and Terry Bieniek provide input on the county's capital project plan during a meeting Tuesday at the Annex Building on Park Street, Fonda.
By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
Recorder News Staff
FONDA -- As Montgomery County officials finish drafting a five-year capital project plan to present to the legislature next month, preliminary action is being taken to prepare for an addition to the public safety building in Glen.
The Montgomery County Budget and Finance Committee passed a resolution to the full legislature Tuesday amending the 2014 operating budget to allocate $40,000 toward preliminary engineering services for the first phase of what will become a multi-year reorganization of county facilities.
"We had our meeting on the capital projects today and we are going to be serious about the capital projects plan and laying out the groundwork for the future of Montgomery County," District 2 Legislator Thomas Quackenbush said. "This is the first step, a crucial step in one of our building projects, so it would be remiss if we didn't take this step because then we would just be spinning our wheels."
Department of Public Works Commissioner Paul Clayburn said the $40,000 would pay for preliminary site investigations, soil boring and explorations, which need to be done before a final design of the project can take place.
"We want to take advantage of the weather before the frost and the snow," Clayburn said. "It is a logical first step in a long range of steps."
A $3.1 million project, to build an 8,500-square-foot wing at the existing public safety building on Clark Drive, is the main project proposed in the first year of the plan. The addition is expected to house the offices of emergency management, probation, public defender, and coroners, which work directly with the sheriff's department on a regular basis. Currently, the departments are split between the annex building on Park Street and the office building on Broadway.
When District 4 Legislator Ryan Weitz asked if they were following procedure outlined in the county charter regarding the capital plan, Treasurer Sean Bowerman said the legislature wasn't approving an actual project.
"Ultimately the capital plan will come to the full board for approval and any further action in progressing into a capital project for a building project would have to come before the board for some type of financing option," he said. "There is no capital project for this as of yet but when it does come, it would come to the board for approval."
The Capital Project Committee met Tuesday morning in the annex building to review the final list of projects in the plan and to nail down the budget for the projects outlined in the first year.
In addition to Quackenbush, Bowerman and Clayburn, committee members include County Executive Matthew Ossenfort, Economic Development and Planning Department Director Ken Rose, and legislators Martin Kelly and Terry Bieniek, who are also the chairs of the Budget and Finance and Physical Services committees.
Besides the public safety wing, the capital project budget for 2015 includes a $2.1 million bridge program, $850,000 for equipment and vehicles, and $250,000 for the county's share in the first year of a capital project at Fulton-Montgomery Community College.
Bowerman said that with the dissolution of the Montgomery County Health Trust and MOSA, the county gained $2.1 million in revenues, but advised the money not be put in the operating budget because it was a one-time increase and would not occur next year.
Instead, he suggested using the money to directly fund the vehicles and equipment, which include a handicap-accessible van, a community service truck, patrol cars for the sheriff's office, and equipment for the DPW.
"Since most of this stuff is equipment and vehicles most of it can only be bonded for five years anyway," Bowerman said. "By doing it with a one-shot purchase you are saving $90,000 in interest over five years."
Ossenfort suggested using an additional $250,000 of the revenues to cover the cost of the F-MCC project, ultimately saving the county roughly $6,000 a year in interest over 10 years.
That means the county will have to bond for the public safety wing and the bridge projects. As it stands right now, the safety wing will cost the county $230,000 a year over 20 years. Bonding the bridge project will cost $145,000 over 20 years.
Bowerman reminded the committee that as they move forward in the plan, additional debt would accrued. For example, when the county reaches the second year of the capital project plan, if there is another $2 million bridge project, it would be added on top of the debt started in the first year. So rather than a $145,000 payment, it will be $300,000. In the third year, it would be $450,000.
"That is a lot of bucks," Quackenbush said. "We have to get consistent with the amount that we are going to spend each year."
Ossenfort added that the figures for the first year are not set as they are anticipating $648,000 in consolidated funding applications, which would decrease the amount that would need to be bonded.
Bowerman added that while the county would be increasing debt, it would also be paying off debt. A bond for a previous project at the county jail is expected to be paid off in 2016, which will save the county nearly $1 million that could be used toward the other projects.
Quackenbush said the public safety wing is important because it would help the county save money in the long run. With some of the departments moving to the new location it will free up space in the county office building for the departments currently in the annex building.
"You have to prioritize which projects save you the most money," he said. "When we get out of this place, we know we are going to save money. That is an investment that is going to help us. Even if it's $50,000 a year, it's going to help."
Bieniek said the bridges are a priority as well since they are in need of repair and have to comply with state and federal regulations.
The committee also reviewed the remainder of the capital projects in the overall plan, which include purchases for the emergency management office and the IT department, the second phase of the county facility reorganization, and more.
Bowerman reminded the committee that the plan is to serve as a guide to the county and that not every proposed project would get done.
"Even if we pass this plan as is, it is not set in stone," Bowerman said. "Until the board approves a project, the project doesn't exist."
However, the committee members said they were comfortable with plan and that it was ready to be presented to the full board.
"We are doing good stuff here," Bieniek said.
The committee is scheduled to present the final version of the capital project plan to the full board during the Budget and Finance Committee meeting Sept. 16.
Contact Nicole Antonucci at email@example.com.