Funds to fix city facilities are thin

The city has $500,000 available for capital improvement projects to upgrade its facilities, including City Hall’s leaking roof and antiquated fire alarms.

Urgent repairs also are needed at the city’s fire headquarters, where the broken pavement on the apron is damaging tires as trucks leave and turn south on Walnut Street.

“It is clear many of the city facilities have been neglected,” Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said during the Public Works Committee meeting Tuesday.

The number of priority projects, such as the fire headquarters and City Hall, may be “beyond our pot of dollars you’ve decided to borrow in the bond issue,” Campana told the committee.

The committee consisting of council members N. Clifford “Skip” Smith, Don Noviello and Bonnie Katz did not take any action after the discussion of emergency repairs.

Instead, it was told the administration is creating a list of top priorities that will share the $500,000 available for capital improvements to city facilities.

First on the list is what the administration deems “urgent repairs” needed at the city’s fire headquarters.

Next in importance is to repair the failing infrastructure of City Hall, which raises questions about whether the city still can invest $200,000 in Memorial Pool.

But the city also is committed to spend $250,000 from a state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant and $250,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding for the renovation of the pool, which also is considered a priority project, according to Councilman Jonathan Williamson, chairman of the council’s finance committee.

Meanwhile, cracks discovered by an engineering firm inspecting the fire headquarter’s walls indicate the structure has moved or shifted, while the sunken concrete pavement outside the headquarters is chewing up tires and a window inside the fire station fogs up from moisture and gets frost in the winter due to a hole caused by a BB gun.

“They (engineers) looked at the whole building,” said Deputy Fire Chief Dave Dymeck, following the Sun-Gazette’s coverage of a committee meeting addressing the urgency to repair the problems at the station at 440 Walnut St.

“It’s tearing the tires out as we leave the station,” Dymeck said. “It chews on the sidewall of the tire almost like a saw.”

While the city Streets and Parks Department has done what it can with temporary patchwork, estimates on the repair costs are going to be provided by Gannett Fleming, the firm that evaluated the apron and did a full report on the fire station. The city anticipates seeing the report within the next two weeks, Campana said.

Firefighters will continue to respond to any call regardless of the tire wearing issue, Dymeck said.

Other important repairs to be made include a portion of a leaking roof at City Hall, a 40-year-old-plus fire alarm system, problematic thermostats and heating and air conditioning issues, Campana said.

Among the $350,000 council agreed to be spend on Bowman Field, including a possible construction of a picnic area along the right field baseline, is first being used on the roof, estimated to cost $116,000. In addition, painting of the grandstands is estimated at another $64,000.

“There’s are needs and wants, and that is low on the totem pole,” Campana said of the picnic area, which has been called “The Grove.”

Councilwoman Liz Miele, when looking at the painting contractor’s contract proposed at $64,000, wondered if the funding stream for the work could come from the general fund as opposed to the borrowed money from the bond.

It is anticipated the city still could have $200,000 in borrowed money to invested in the Memorial Park pool renovation project and additional money for enhancements to the city streetlight system, but that could change.