LACONIA — The City Council began its review of the 2015-2016 budget recommended by City Manager Scott Myers this week with presentations from the Department of Public Works (DPW), Police Department and Recreation and Facilities Department. The fiscal year begins on July 1 but it is not unusual for the council to delay final passage until sometime in July so that the Legislature can finish its work and revenue numbers will be clearer.
The highlight of the DPW's budget is a proposed increase in spending on street repairs to begin implementing a pavement management program intended to raise the 306 streets in the city and 82 miles of road to at least "fair" condition. For some years the city has spent approximately $1.3 million on street repairs. The 2015-2016 budget recommends increasing expenditures to about $1.7 million.
In 2012-2013, an inventory and assessment of city streets found that the average "pavement condition index" (PCI)was 63 on a scale where 56 to 70 represents "fair." At the same time, the survey found that 26.2 miles, or 32 percent, of streets are in "failed" to "poor" condition with PCI s between 0 and 55 while 55.8 miles, or 55.8 percent, of streets are in "fair" to "good" condition with PCIs between 56 and 100.
Roads in "fair" condition deteriorate rapidly and the cost of maintaining a road in "fair" condition is a third or a quarter that of repairing a road in "poor" or "failed" condition. Paul Moynihan, director of Public Works, explained that lending priority to the maintenance of roads in "fair" condition makes optimal use of the available funds. At the same time, some streets in "poor" or worse condition can be improved each year. Altogether five or six miles of roadway would be either repaved or reconstructed each year. The goal of the program is to raise the average PCI of city streets to at least 70 in the next eight to 10 years.
Councior David Bownes (Ward 2) asked if once the goal was reached, would spending on street repairs be reduced. Moynihan said that he anticipated that to maintain streets "fair" condition, allowing for inflation, would require annual expenditures of between $15 million and two million for the foreseeable future.
The Police Commission has proposed a budget of $4,979,238, an increase of 2.7 percent, about half of which is represented by a $107,859 increase in salaries and benefits for the 41 sworn officers and 10 civilian employees. Police Chief Chris Adams told the council that his top priority was funding the position of Prevention-Enforcement-Treatment (PET) Coordinator for 12 months. The position, held by Officer Eric Adams, was created in 2014 to address the sharp rise in substance and abuse addiction but was funded for only one-half year.
Captain William Clary advised the council that the cost of policing Motorcycle Week is projected to rise as officers from other departments, who have been paid $34 per hour, will expect to be paid the rate they receive for private details, which ranges between $50 and $75 per hour. He said that $70,000 was budgeted for this year's rally and he anticipated spending close to that amount, but expected to expenditures to exceed $70,000 in 2016. Clary said that the number of both out-of-town officers and New Hampshire State Police has been reduced by 25 percent in the last five years as attendance at the rally has declined and the overall atmosphere has gotten tamer.
Additional seasonal personnel was also a priority for Kevin Dunleavy, director of Pars and Recreation and Facilities. He explained that the department's responsibilities have grown with the opening the Weirs Community Park, expansion of the WOW Trail and downtown riverwalk and improvement of Bobotas Field at Laconia High School. The positions , together with contracted increases in salaries and benefits, account for the $19,403 increase in the department budget, from $666,034 to $685, 437. He said that most of the $50,000 recommended for the maintenance of would be spent on athletic fields and said that the smaller parks —Rotary Park, Wyatt Park, Sanborn Park, Stewart Park — required greater investment.
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