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MIDDLEBURY — While the long-discussed $16 million Cross Street Bridge has now been completed, Middlebury continues to maintain a lengthy list of other capital improvement projects that local officials believe will need to be whittled down sooner, rather than later.
Middlebury Town Manager Bill Finger earlier this month gave the selectboard what he said was an incomplete list of almost 30 potential projects, ranging from the fairly basic and inexpensive (celebration of the 250th anniversary of the town charter this year) to the complex and costly (new town offices).
“If we continue to ignore some of these (projects) we risk the chance of having to respond in an emergency and likely more costly mode,” Finger wrote in a memo accompanying the list.
“Finding the right balance between wants and needs and the revenue needed to support them is the perennial budget challenge.”
Items on Finger’s to-do list include:
• Construction of new fire facilities (see Addison Independent, Jan. 20).
• A major makeover or replacement of the municipal building and town gym. The community voted against a major replacement project several years ago. Meanwhile, the town is losing thousands of dollars annually through wasted energy leaking out of the porous building.
• Securing better storage facilities for some of the town’s public works equipment that is now being housed in sub-standard locations, such as at the former wastewater treatment plant off Seymour Street.
• Improvements for the town pool, which is now around 40 years old.
• Additional landscaping maintenance for the Cross Street Bridge.
• Bicycle paths and lanes.
• Expansion of Ilsley Library.
• Filling in missing links in the town’s sidewalk network.
• Office insulation and installation of an equipment wash bay at the Department of Public Works garage.
• Procurement of permanent emergency generators for the municipal building, DPW headquarters and library.
• Removal of unused well structures at Palmer Springs.
• Potential hiring of new personnel to oversee the maintenance and use of town facilities and information technology.
Finger acknowledged that the to-do list is likely to grow, and linger, for several years. But he said the town should start salting away more money and chip away at the projects, rather than offering a series of bond proposals.
He said that while the town’s capital improvement budget has grown over the past seven years (to a proposed $814,641) for next year, that sum is probably 50 percent of what a community the size of Middlebury should be investing in upgrades.
“I think that overall, the town has been very amenable to improvements, and has been generous,” Finger said. “My own take on it is, if people see improvements and like the improvements that they see, they are willing to continue to support them. But if they feel that taxes are just going up because they are going up and can’t feel the improvements, then they are not going to support (the improvements).”
Reporter John Flowers is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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