Friday, August 16, 2013

Fun with the capital budget!

Okay, as promised: let's have some fun with the city capital budget, shall we? This is mostly not going to be about schools, but not only is interesting to see how Worcester proposes to spend $41 million, it's also because, as you've heard before: a budget is a expression of community priorities. So what does Worcester value?

First, let's get it over with: there's about $10 million of the $41 million that's asphalt and traffic signals.
That's a lot of asphalt.
It appears that we're going to be having a new light put in at the (new) corner of Front and Church Streets and it's going to cost $200,000.
I am the first to admit that I know nothing about traffic lights, but that sounds like a lot.

But parks! Parks are fun. The perennial favorites, Elm Park and Green Hill* Park come in for $800,000 and a million respectively this year, but if you look down the page and onto the next one, you'll see there's also money this year for Blithewood Park (replacing the playground!), Ty Cobb Little League field, Blackstone Gateway Park, Indian Hill Park (including a new basketball court!), Logan Field (more on the ongoing baseball field work there), Coes Pond, Institute Park, Kendrick Field, Crompton Park, Castle Park, Greenwood Park, Burncoat Street Playground (right next to Burncoat Prep and used by the school!), Providence Street Playground (which is the only place I can find any mention of soccer, which is odd considering the acknowledged need for soccer facilities). PLUS there is money to cover the revised Open Space and Recreation plan, AND they're putting money in for playground inspection and assessment! Brilliant!
I asked at our subcommittee today and it appears that this will be inspecting ONLY parks (not schools) playgrounds.
Also, if your favorite park is not listen above, can I suggest that you look at the "out years" (that would be the following four years) and HOLD THE COUNCIL TO IT on the money planned for your park!
Also, remember that there are lots of parks not listed here.
For you cemetery mavens (and I know you're out there), there's $50,000 for new section development and $500,000 for water service for Hope (which is run by the city).
There's $600,000 for "Phase 3B" for the City Messenger division of the DPW, which for some reason is where they put Worcester Common improvements. No details on what's being done.
There's a million dollars for continued work on replacing the Beaver Brook culvert between May and Maywood Streets, and the city is going to create "an attractive walkway" on the surface.
There's a study on reducing the flooding in Green Island.

And now for TRUCKS!
For the DPW Water Division: crew cab truck 4WD w/ plow, 3/4 truck pickup, backhoe with plow, utility/meter truck, 2 1/2 ton pick-up, 5 ton dump truck...
For the DPW Sewer Division (same page as above): a jet flusher, catch basin (that's the truck that cleans the catch basin; it's $205,000, and they put a plow on it in the winter), street sweeper (if you're interested, that costs $335,000), claws, and a pickup truck.
In both of the above cases, take a look as well at the projected years.
I asked at our subcommittee today if the City Council gets a roster of the vehicle fleet with age and condition, as we do. They do not.
Also, inspectional services is purchasing three small sedans and a 4x4 pickup truck.
And the Worcester Fire Department is getting a 4x4 pickup truck and a ladder truck (actually, they're getting only half of a ladder truck; they cost over a million dollars, so it'll be spread over two years).
They aren't trucks, but the Worcester Police Department is getting six marked Ford Taurus Interceptors and eight unmarked Ford Taurus Interceptors. Interesting point: for six marked ones, it costs $200,000. For eight unmarked ones, it costs $232,000.
The list also has the WPD down for "ravens" but as far as I can tell, they're just getting new phones and new cell service.

There is a bit that I don't understand, though; on page 42 above, it says that the Worcester Public Schools are getting something "to replace a current ford taurus (sic) which will allow for easy access to construction sites."
It's for $500,000.
Odd on three counts: WPS doesn't have any sedans (check page 91 of our budget for the vehicles WPS owns). The $500,000 isn't shown  as being WPS anywhere else in the budget. And someone's getting a really lousy deal on a Ford Taurus (or its replacement) if it's costing a half a million dollars.
I really hope that didn't go out as an advertisement that way!

There's also renovations and upgrades happening for the two buildings at Elm Park for $250,000. There's $350,000 worth of work at fire stations. There's almost three and a half million dollars worth of work at the DCU Center (currently being done). And having the former Sh'Booms refitted for the new restaurant is projected to cost $140,000 for Fat, Oil, and Grease compliance refitting.

So, the Council votes on this on Tuesday. If you have questions, get them to your councilor over the weekend!

*It's not one word. It's named after the Green family.

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