Town budget moves beyond the middle school

March 16, 2023

At the special Town Meeting in January, Concord residents ticked a major capital expense off the docket, agreeing to add $7.2 million to close the budget gap to pay for the new middle school.

Voters reinforced support for the school in February. With that added money, the new school will cost close to $110 million. 

Concord is much more than just schools and there are myriad capital expenses to be dealt with beyond paying for the new school. At the Finance Committee public hearing March 1, Town Manager Kerry Lafleur laid out the upcoming schedule of planned capital expenses. 

The big-ticket items are road maintenance; renovating a mid-career fire truck; and replacing an aging public works truck, tricked out with a sander and plow. 

Less-expensive items include new turnout gear for firefighters; bridge improvements at Chamberlin Park; and replacing some aging police cruisers. 

According to Lafleur, the town has three tiers of capital spending.  

Tier 1 pays for items valued at $250,000 or less and is paid with cash. Tier 2 items cost up to $2.5 million and require borrowing. 

The Tier 1 request for fiscal 2024 is $1.725 million

The Tier 2 request is $4.1 million. 

Among the Tier 1 expenses:

·       $35,000 for energy sustainability  

·       $120,000 for new tech. Concord tries to replace 20 to 25 percent of its computers annually. 

·       $200,000 for work on the stairs and ramp  at the Harvey Wheeler Community Centre

·       $120,000 for HVAC and ventilation work across several town buildings. 

·       $10,000 for work on the Chamberlin Park bridge

·       $15,000 for library computers.

·       $795,000 for a variety of public works expenses, including a landfill monitoring well, street signs and striping and roadside safety improvements. 

Tier 2 expenses include:

·       $300,000 for a heavy duty public works truck with sander

·       $210,000 for refurbishment of a fire department pumper truck

·       $425,000 for work on the MBTA lot in West Concord 

·       $515,000 for improvements to the intersection of Baker Avenue and Main Street

The big cost – $2.65 million – comes from road maintenance work. In 2022, the town hired Stantec Engineering to get a feel for the quality of the roads. That work determined, to maintain the roads at their current level, the town needs to spend about $2 million a year. According to Lafleur, the goal in town is to improve the roads, hence the larger request. 

Concord has 108 miles of road, Lafleur said. 

“Before the pandemic, we spent just under two million dollars in Tier 1 and we’d like to get back to that,” Lafleur said. 

 The Tier 2 budget of $4.1 million mirrors past capital budgets, she said. 

In the run up to Town Meeting,the select board has a continued hearing March 27, the Planning Board meets March 29. Town Meeting is Sunday, April 30.