JAMESTOWN – Mayor Sam Teresi has less than four months to go before he leaves office at the end of this year, but that’s not stopping him from rolling out an ambitious borrowing program that he says could result in the city saving half a million dollars on an annual basis.
On Monday night Teresi, city staff, and the Jamestown City Council spent over two hours reviewing the proposed 2019 Smart city Capital Investment Program, which involves the city borrowing $12.9 million in order to address capital and equipment challenges facing the city. An additional $1 million would also come from the state Financial Restructuring Board (FRB).
The mayor said that unlike borrowing proposals of the past, this proposal is geared toward an effort to identify and go after large expense projects in an effort to create efficiency and save money.
“This is our first major foray into a true, smart city initiative where everything that we’re investing in has an efficiency, a revenue-generating potential, and has a savings potential. A lot of our bonding initiatives, as you’ve seen in the past, have been reactive to things. And some of the things that we borrowed on didn’t meet the definition of smart city,” Teresi said.
The plan involves borrowing money for seven main categories – three of which would focus on needs at the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities and the other four would focus on city infrastructure, facility needs, and vehicle and equipment replacement and upgrades for both Public Works and Fire Departments.
For the BPU, an estimated $3.5 million could be borrowed to address sewer lines, water mains, and needs at the wastewater treatment plant – although the specific amount wont be known until after BPU officials finalize a detailed plan for the borrowing. That final plan could come by the end of this month.
Meanwhile, the other $9.4 million would be borrowed to cover everything from possibly building a new DPW garage to replacing and upgrading vehicles in the city fire department. Deputy Fire Chief Sam Salemme said that right now, several vehicles in the fleet are in very poor condition and borrowing as much as $1.2 million would go a long way addressing the problem.
“In one of the trucks – something as simple as a braking system has become obsolete. We pay through the nose to get just a caliper and brake pads to repair one of the trucks,” Salemme said. “It’s just costing us a lot of money to repair these trucks.”
Another major component of the borrowing would go toward the DPW, with $1.9 million being used to help pay for equipment and vehicle needs. In addition, $1 million from the FRB, making the total investment $2.9 million. Another $4 million would also be used to construct a new DPW garage on Crescent Street.
DPW fleet manager Patrick Monaghan said right now the garage on Steele Street isn’t adequate to meet the needs of the department.
“One of their strongest recommendations for us – in order to put in place what they believe would be an effect fleet management program going forward – is that we need a larger and more adequate facility. Not only for maintenance, but just for simply managing a vehicle from the moment we buy it to updating and serving the vehicle to the day that we dispose of it,” Monaghan said. “Now, are we getting the work done? Yes. But we can do it a lot more efficiently, a lot quicker and a lot easier if we had the facility to do that.”
The total borrowing could be as high as $12.9 million and not all the projects would come on line at once if the borrowing did take place. However, Mayor Teresi said that by packaging all the items together under one borrowing program, it could help save the city nearly $150,000 in administrative costs and other fees that are typically associated with the bonding process.
“As we’ve done in the past with the BPU, when we package bonding initiatives together we are able to piggy back on top of each others efforts and basically share those costs so that we’re not going out in 2019 and doing $150,000 in costs and then the BPU is going out in 2020 or 2021. We’ll take them under one initiative and we’ll share the proportionate costs.”
If all projections were met, the mayor said the city would realize a projected annual savings of $599,500 through the program.
While the project was only publicly revealed on Monday night, the program is on an aggressive timeline to be reviewed and then acted on by the city council. According to the mayor, the council may give its authorization to proceed with the bonding process in a resolution that could be voted on as soon as this month’s Sept. 30 voting session.