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Village Departments Present Potential Capital Plans

On Feb. 6, a presentation of the village’s Five-Year Capital Plan was held at Village Hall. The purpose of this program was to better acquaint those in attendance with the village’s capital needs for the upcoming fiscal year. Additionally, it provided an opportunity to ask the department heads questions in regard to the proposed projects.

At the beginning of this budget session, Trustee John Mauk stated that the Board of Trustees’ objective is to strike an appropriate balance between providing the level of services that the residents need and balance that with a tax rate that is acceptable. This is a difficult task, considering that there are less available resources. “In these times, as all of us know, painfully so, it is difficult to accomplish that with what has happened with our economy,” Mauk stated. Despite these tough economic times, Mauk said that it might be better to bite the bullet and fix the areas that need improvement now, in order to continue to provide a level of services that is expected by the village.

“This is really a holistic process, where we solicit input from the property owners associations, the business community through our Chamber of Commerce, the Mayor and Board of Trustees, and department heads and take all that input and put it into the definitive capital budget,” said Village Administrator Robert Schoelle. “It really should be stressed that all the items that are here, unfortunately, are not going to be able to be achieved this year due to the fact that there are several spans of revenue periods which will impact the 2010/2011 operating budget.” Schoelle stated that these include assessment reduction for commercial and residential properties, tax certiorari proceedings, litigation, employee pension contributions, increased cost of capital projects, and three unsettled labor contracts with the Police Benevolent Association, Civil Service Employees Association and the Professional Firefighters Association. He also stated that the village has lower earnings on investments and has lost a considerable amount of money on mortgage taxes due to the lack of home sales.

On the upside, Village Auditor James Olivo stated that the debt position of the village is less than $10 million, which is very low, considering Garden City’s size and complexity. He said that some of the projects lined up are going to be funded through bonds. Some of these projects are scheduled for 2011 while others are scheduled for 2012. Olivo also presented the Technology budget, which came in at $148,000 for this year and $138,000 for the following year.

Captain Gil Frank presented the fire department’s capital request and said there is a 25-year plan for apparatus replacement, with $250,000 going into this budget every year. However, that $250,000 was taken out of the budget last year in order to keep the overall capital plan lower. Therefore, the fire department is requesting $250,000 to be funded this year in order to stay on schedule. Frank also stated that the only apparatus that is scheduled for replacement this year is the chief’s vehicle. The original estimate for this vehicle came in at $40,000, but Frank believes that this cost could be brought down to $30,000.

The next fire apparatus that needs to be replaced is one of the Pumpers, scheduled in the budget year 2012-2013. The estimate for that apparatus replacement is $600,000. Frank reminded everyone that it takes 12 to 14 months to have a fire truck built and delivered to the village after the contract is signed. Therefore, this is not an item to push back another year, since it takes over a year to get it to the village once it has been bought. The apparatus that is being decommissioned is a 1985 Pumper, which the fire department has had for over 25 years. Frank said, “A 20- to 25-year-old piece of fire equipment is questionable. In a life-saving situation where you are looking to get water in a hurry and we have a problem, that is not a good thing.”

The fire department requested two improvements to the second floor of Fire Headquarters Company 4 for air-conditioning replacement and an exhaust hood and extinguishing system in the cooking area. This estimate originally came in at a total of $75,000, but Frank said that they might be able to lower the air-conditioning estimate from $50,000 to $20,000, which would bring the total down to $45,000. Frank also stated that these updates are not critical at this point and could be taken out of this year’s budget.

Fire Company Station 3 on Clinton Road has a request for $55,000 in the budget year 2011-2012 for an emergency generator. Frank said that the request for an emergency generator at Station 3 has been pushed back once and that it could probably be pushed back again.

Police Commissioner Ernest Cipullo said that the police department’s capital needs are for replacing vehicles and improving communications. Cipullo said that their requests were pushed back last year and that they have already scaled down their requests for this year’s budget after speaking with Schoelle. Their original request was for six police cars and a couple of utility vehicles, which has now been cut down to four police cars (two marked and two unmarked), a utility vehicle for parking enforcement and a crew cab pickup truck to replace the 1994 Suburban that is used for truck inspections. Cipullo said that this Suburban is falling apart from use and that a crew cab pickup truck would be sufficient for truck inspections and would save the village $10,000.

Cipullo said that the routine replacement of vehicles is usually around three years, since these vehicles have around 60,000 to 70,000 miles on them at that point. The unmarked police cars that are replaced go to other village departments, such as Public Works. In response to a question that was brought up at a recent meeting, Cipullo said that it is better to purchase a new car instead of replacing engines and transmissions. He said that there is so much wear and tear on not just the engine and transmission, but also the suspension, steering and electrical system, and all of the warranties are expired. “Police cars are not operated like your family car,” Cipullo said. “They take a lot of wear and tear, more so than normal driving of a vehicle.”

The $100,000 requested for communications will be reimbursed to the village through a grant, Cipullo said. This update to their communications system would allow Garden City Police to communicate with other police departments in Nassau County. The grant is through the Nassau County Police Communications Bureau and its purpose is to create interoperability for police departments in Nassau County. Garden City’s portion would allow them to replace outdated equipment and bring their radio up to speed.

Library Director Carolyn Vogler requested $45,000 for new computers, since some of the 22 computers in the library are eight to ten years old and they need more up-to-date computers in order to go along with requirements set forth by the Nassau Library System. The library also requested funding for masonry restoration of building, which would cover emergency repairs from water leaks and prevent further water damage. Vogler stated that they are looking into other options to reduce the cost of the current estimate, which is coming in at $30,000 for this year and $40,000 for each of the following three years.

The library is requesting $15,000 for a light panel safety upgrade this year. Vogler said that the current light panel system is not fire-rated. Additionally, the switches are worn and could cause damage.

Additionally, the library requested $25,000 to repair the ceiling and lights in the large meeting room. Vogler said that some of the panels have fallen from the ceiling over the past few months, which is a safety concern, since many library programs are held in this room.

Department of Public Works Director Bob Mangan began his presentation by stating, “The backbone of public works is equipment. Last year there were zero dollars in the budget for equipment replacement.” Public Works has more than 100 pieces of equipment and $404,500 is proposed this year for equipment replacement. “The most essential of all of this equipment that we need replaced is the sweeper,” Mangan said. “This week, we sent out three different sweepers - none of them lasted the day and were all back in the shop.” Mangan said that it is impossible to replace parts on the sweeper, since the corporation it was manufactured by went out of business eight years ago. Public Works is looking into a lease purchase, rather than paying $175,000 in full for a new sweeper. With a lease purchase, DPW would purchase the sweeper at the end of the five-year lease.

For the 2011-2012 budget year, $960,400 is proposed for business district improvements along Franklin Avenue. Mayor Robert Rothschild said that the village improved these conditions 10 to 12 years ago to prevent this area from turning into a ghost town and called it a “long-term commitment on the part of the village to help the commercial district.” He said that keeping these conditions in good shape brings more people to this district and has an effect on what can be charged for rent. “It brings people into the village, it fills the office buildings, fills the parking lots, and hopefully fills our restaurants and shops,” he said.

For this year’s budget, $365,000 is proposed to repair the pavers on Franklin Avenue crosswalks, which have been taking a beating due to traffic and heavy salting of the roads – many are sheared in half. Schoelle stated that these pavers are ragged and dangerous, which could cause people to trip and fall. The pavers would be replaced with a new system that would hold up better against traffic, salt and erosion.

Other items listed on the Public Works proposed budget for this year included $250,000 for sewer repairs and manhole relining, $600,000 for road repairs, $230,000 for curb replacement, $250,000 for sidewalk repairs, $40,000 for tree planting and $110,000 to repair the leaky roof of the Public Works building, which houses all of the equipment. For the 2011-2012 budget year, $2,010,000 is proposed to resurface four parking fields: 12, Faircourt, 7N and 5.

Frank Koch, superintendent of the Water and Sewer Department, requested $600,000 each year from 2010 to 2013 to convert all of the water meters in the village. Koch explained that as meters age, they slow down and they do not provide an accurate reading. In turn, properly working meters could provide better water conservation.

Recreation Director Kevin Ocker proposed a total budget of $380,000 for this year for various improvements. He stated that many people take part in the Recreation Department’s programs and that it is a vital part of the community. “Garden City’s reputation across Long Island is second to none as far as recreation departments go,” Ocker said.

Ocker said that there has been a plan over the past five years to replace playground equipment and replace the safety surface in neighborhood parks. The last playground on the rotation is Grove St. Park and the Recreation Department is requesting capital to replace the safety surfacing on the toddler section of this playground, which Ocker said is beyond repair at this point. “Normally we would go in and replace the entire playground and all of the safety surfacing, but in order to keep the costs down for this coming fiscal year, we’re suggesting to just redo safety surfacing of the toddler section,” Ocker said. For this year, $25,000 is proposed for safety surfacing and $50,000 is proposed for playground equipment.

The Recreation Department is also requesting $80,000 for equipment, such as a pickup truck, utility carts and mowers. Other capital requested for Recreation Department improvements include $50,000 for outdoor courts, $125,000 for Synthetic Turf Fields and $50,000 to rehabilitate paths, parking lots and roadways. For the swimming pool, $175,000 is requested to fix several things, including the slide. Some of the pieces of the slide that are bolted together have become uneven, and many children have complained that this hurts them. Ocker stated that the slide solidified membership and is essential for the pool.

The next budget work sessions will be held on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 27 at 8:30 a.m.; and Wednesday, March 3 at 7 p.m., which will be the final budget session.