Needham’s wrapped up Wednesday evening, May 16. Highlights of the fourth and final meeting night included , funding for a variety of capital items from energy efficiency upgrades to a new fire engine, and setting aside money for replacement of turf fields and other future needs.
Here’s a quick look at the articles approved:
Article 30: Cash Capital Items
As town officials pointed out on , Needham has more money than usual left over from fiscal year 2011, in part because of higher than anticipated revenues. In typical years, the town has a range of $3.4 million to $3.6 million in “free cash” available at the close of a fiscal year; however, in the FY2011 budget, the free cash amount left over was about $5.4 million.
As is tradition, much of that money is used for capital purchases—one-time expenses for equipment, vehicles, technology and other items—for various departments, with some funds also allocated toward the town’s reserve funds, or “rainy day” savings accounts.
A few of these purchases approved in Article 30 include: resodding at for $90,000; additional licenses and hardware for about 100 employee computer stations, for $130,000; energy efficiency upgrades to town buildings for $34,815 (with an expected annual savings in energy costs of about $125,000); replacement of about 300 school computers that have reached or are functioning beyond their seven-year lifecycle, for $828,000; structural firefighting gear for $40,000; and various pieces of heavy equipment and vehicles for the Department of Public Works, ranging from $41,000 to $293,000.
Article 32: New Fire Ladder Truck
Town Meeting voted to spend $750,000 to purchase a new ladder truck for the . Rather than borrow the money in a five-year bond as originally planned, the town is purchasing the vehicle using free cash from FY2011. The new vehicle will replace a 1994 model. The “useful life” of this type of vehicle is 15-20 years, Fire Chief Paul Buckley said.
Article 34: DPW Complex Renovations
Article 34 originally asked for $580,000 for the engineering and construction of eight garage bays and associated site improvements at the Department of Public Works complex, near 500 Dedham Ave. However, town officials have since decided that the project needs to be studied further before proceeding.
The amended article, approved on Wednesday, set aside $40,000 for a feasibility study of the site to mitigate the impact to the nearby playing fields at DeFazio Park and ensure the plans fit in with the area.
DPW Director Richard Merson said the goal is eventually to build eight garage bays that are about 20 feet wide and 60 feet deep to house at least two vehicles per bay, allowing them to store more equipment indoors. Eventual additions could include areas for maintenance and washing.
Article 39: Athletic Facility Improvement Fund
Town Meeting voted to establish a new savings fund that will help the town prepare for future replacement of turf fields at DeFazio and parks as well as other maintenance and upgrades at town fields.
According to the industry standard, turf fields last about 8-10 years, and the cost to replace both Needham’s turf fields (which were installed in 2009) would be about $1.6 million, Selectman John Bulian said.
Town Meeting also voted Wednesday to put $282,728 into the fund, from free cash left over in FY2011.
Bulian said the plan was to put an amount equal to the amount raised from user fees at all of Needham’s fields and parks annually into the Athletic Facility Improvement Fund.
Articles 40 and 41: Reserves
Town Meeting voted to put $50,000 into the town’s Capital Improvement Fund, a move which helps the town’s credit rating and also saves funds for future capital needs. As of Dec. 31, 2011, this fund’s balance was $561,688.
Residents also voted to put $140,370 into the town’s Capital Facility Fund, which is used to pay for “extraordinary building repairs and related expenses at times when other resources are unavailable,” according to the article description. As of Dec. 31, 2011, the balance in the fund was $734,117.
Also approved at Wednesday night’s meeting were articles 37 and 38, which set aside funds in the sewer and water enterprise funds for equipment, upgrades and other expenses within those departments.
The 2012 Annual Town Meeting was dissolved just after 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 16 in memory of longtime Needham resident Jane Howard.