WINCHESTER - The McCall Middle School projects in Phase I and II will add classrooms and expand the cafeteria as well as fix the athletic rooms. The town passed a debt-exclusion override to pay for the work and the Capital Planning Committee asked if any additional funds, should they exist, could be used elsewhere.
“Can additional money be appropriated from the McCall override to address traffic as a result of additional McCall students,” Capital Planning Committee member Jim Johnson asked the Select Board.
The committee also asked about receiving half of the Winning Farm payment ($500,000), as the board at a recent meeting suggested splitting the money: half for capital and half for affordable housing. Select Board Chair Mariano Goluboff said it would ultimately be up to Town Meeting, but his board would support a warrant article authorizing such a transaction.
Helen Philliou, Chair of the Capital Planning Committee, suggested wording the article to allow Town Meeting to place the funds in the Capital Stabilization Fund.
With so many projects on the horizon, the committee has a need for additional money. Two of those upcoming projects involve traffic around the McCall Middle School on Main Street as Johnson noted. Both the intersections at Main and Washington streets and Mystic Valley Parkway and Waterfield Road are in need of upgrades.
While the design work for both projects has been completely funded, according to Goluboff (Main Street at Washington Street plans are complete while Mystic Valley Parkway/Waterfield Road plans are at the 50 percent design phase), the Capital Planning Committee still needs money for the construction.
The Mystic Valley Parkway project alone could run the town $1M.
Combine that with the other millions in requests for this year, which includes the Waterfield and Lake Street bridges that were mentioned in a previous article, and it’s easy to see how quickly the money disappears. Not to mention, as Philliou pointed out, intersections can be tricky, meaning the cost can always increase.
If the committee has to use a good portion of its funding for these projects, Johnson didn’t seem that concerned. He noted how capital always has a funding source and questioned how much reserves they need and if they need some kind of policy. If so, he asked, what should it be?
(The Select Board has a Free Cash policy where reserves must remain within 6-10 percent of the total revenue.)
Of course, capital had struggled in the past with a lack of money to pay for the myriad projects that come up every year, so even with a steady funding source it doesn’t always cover projected needs. Now, though, thanks to the override, they have extra money to play with and potentially more projects they can address.
Even still, the committee mentioned having to defer paying for a fire engine to take on other projects. Each year, departments will submit a list of needs to the Capital Planning Committee and the committee then ranks those needs based on priority, importance and/or which they can afford to fund.
Right now, the important projects include the bridges and the intersections around the McCall Middle School. Those projects will get done, according to the Select Board, especially the intersections as Select Board member Jacqueline Welch noted how they’ve been a danger for decades.
“These are overdue projects at McCall,” she stressed.
Select Board member Michael Bettencourt added: “We have to prioritize or these traffic projects will take over everything.”