Capital Expenditures Considers 71 Priority Projects

By Kim Siebert MacPhail

Although the FY14 budget process is by no means complete, and the landscape will shift substantially before Annual Town Meeting in March, preliminary Capital Expenditures Committee (CapEx) discussions on December 5 reviewed 71 high-priority projects totaling $6,023,449. With only about $1M in capital to work with—the exact amount will depend on Finance Committee guidelines—much work remains to decide which projects merit quick action and which can be postponed, bonded, or funded by other means.

Before providing a sampling of the FY14 capital request list, some background about capital expenditures, the Committee, and the process itself may be useful:

Generally, a capital request is one that is too costly to fund within an individual Town department’s operating budget. The 2012 Annual Town Meeting warrant defined a capital expense in this way:

“. . .any item or project expenditure of $5,000 or more per item with a useful life of two or more years. Individual capital items of less than $5,000 each are considered operating capital and are funded through departmental operating budgets with the exception of multiple, similar items that are ’bundled’ together to reach an amount that exceeds $30,000.”

Each year, the School department and each Town department compile lists of capital requests for review. A presentation to CapEx providing a narrative and details about the requests is also customary. Projects are also sorted into categories that help determine priority: safety,mandates, return on investment, and quality of life. Safety requests receive the highest ranking.

Once all the requests and associated material have been submitted, CapEx determines if it needs more information and then the members individually assign a rank to each project reflecting how important they think the project is. The responses, which are anonymous; are tabulated by Jessica Porter, the Committee’s administrative liaison, after which CapEx again reviews the list before the Annual Town Meeting warrant is finalized.

The Capital Expenditures Committee, which consists of liaisons from the Selectmen, Finance Committee, and School Committee, plus six members-at-large, is charged with taking a long view of Bedford’s capital projects. The Town’s bylaws state that CapEx “shall consider capital appropriations and make recommendations to Town Meeting based on a six-year plan.” It is due to this intentionally long view that the CapEx has a broad purview of past, present, and future capital demands.

While it is not possible at this point to know which of the 71 projects will rise to the top of the FY14 capital request list, CapEx is currently considering how the following items should be ranked for Annual Town Meeting consideration:(Note: It should be emphasized that some of the projects that are eligible may become Community Preservation requests. Others may appear as requests for bonding, postponed until another year, or funded by grants or other means.)

  • Minuteman BikePath refurbishment: $125,000;
  • Water leak detection, mandated: $10,000;
  • Streetlight replacement program: $521,600;
  • Road resurfacing project: $966,974;
  • Tree planting program: $14,000;
  • Water main improvement, Great Road: $500,000;
  • Sewer pump station: $15,746;
  • Vehicle and equipment replacement, 22 items: $670,500;
  • Town/School capital grounds maintenance: $122,000;
  • Emergency dispatch center:$504,000;
  • Bundled energy management projects, 6 projects: $135,345;
  • JGMS intercom system renewal: $55,000;
  • Bundled building interior painting projects, 4 projects: $101,959;
  • Sabourin stadium press box renewal: $16,000;
  • Library telephone system and voicemail renewal: $20,990;
  • Lane School walk-in freezer: $36,755.

Additionally, it is suspected that the Fire Department’s capital request to replace a ladder truck—originally scheduled for consideration in FY15—might find its way onto the FY14 list due to the extent of deterioration and the timeline for replacement. Fire Chief David Grunes will make that determination in the coming weeks.

[To read about the recent Police and Fire Department presentation to CapEx, visit]

This year, a new asset management software system is being tested but, for the time being, the same standards of safety, mandates, return on investment, and quality of life are being used to prioritize capital requests. However, after this transition year, the new software be used tocategorize and rank each request based on a somewhat different set of criteria that includes safety impact; mission impact (whether it is mandated or will soon be mandated); sustainment (whetherthe item is obsolete or past its useful life);community impact (how it will affect Town residents or employees); efficiency/return on investment; and community quality(environmental impact, social justice, regional issues and innovation.)

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