Capital improvement plan includes police station addition, fire truck and more

The Board of Aldermen recently approved a capital improvement plan that calls for funding some big projects in upcoming years, including an addition to the police station, a new fire truck and renovations at West Shore Middle School.

The five-year capital improvement plan is a planning tool, Mayor Ben Blake explained. Not all of the projects outlined in the lengthy document will be undertaken over the next five years. In some cases, the projects are wish-list items that are there in case the city receives grants to pay for them. To qualify for some grants, a project needs to be in the city’s capital improvement plan, Blake said.

While the total cost estimate of projects included in the plan is $148.9 million, an estimated $32.7 million would come from grants or reimbursements, bringing the total cost to the city to $116.2 million. While it is a five-year plan, Blake noted that some of the costs are included in the current year, making it actually a six-year plan.

One of the big items included in the plan is about $20 million to upgrade West Shore Middle School, but the city document notes that the state may reimburse 50% of that.

“We need to bring it into parity with the other middle schools,” Blake said.

“That is being designed as we speak,” Blake said, adding that he suspects the cost may be between $15 and $20 million.

A project description states, “The school is next in line for a major renovation and upgrade project. This will include the addition of a dedicated music/chorus area, as well as general alterations, improvements, code compliance, and replacement of all windows and the roof.”

The capital improvement plan also includes allocations for roof replacements at some of the city schools and funds for upgrades to the schools’ security infrastructure

“This will include an ongoing project to create isolated vestibules at the front entrances to all schools,” according to the capital improvement plan.

The plan also includes $20 million to construct a 35,000-square-foot addition to the police department.

“Over the past 35 years, all available space has been utilized to the point where we are using external storage space for recovered property as well as off-site space for task force and special operation initiatives,” according to the project proposal.

Blake said an expanded police station has been in the city’s capital improvement plan since 1998. But the project appears to be moving now: a building upgrade committee held its first meeting last week, Blake said.

“There are serious space needs,” he said, pointing out that many areas that should be used for operations are being used for storage.

“For example, when he have a lineup, we have to use the West Haven Police Department,” Blake said.

The plan also includes expenditures for sewer and pump station projects, as well as money to renovate a former military facility on Seeman’s Lane into an emergency planning and training center. Blake said the Seeman’s Lane project, pegged at $600,000, would require federal funding and not likely go forward unless there was government funding to pay for it.

Another $600,000 is included for the purchase of a new rescue pumper truck for the fire department, to replace an 11-year-old pumper nearing the end of its expected service life.

There is also money for paving and sidewalk work, Flax Mill Lane bridge repair, replacement of the Parsons Government Center roof, dredging of the Wepawaug River for flood control, and money for lighting and improvements at several city recreation areas.

The plan does not set priorities or carry any funding commitments, the mayor points out in his memorandum included with the plan.

“Obviously, given financial and economic realities, difficult decisions will have to be made as to what projects get funded and which needs will need to be deferred,” his memorandum states.

The city typically bonds $20 million to $30 million a year for capital projects, though some years that number has been higher, Blake said.