HARVARD — Selectman Peter Warren in his role as liaison to the Capital Plan Committee told the board Tuesday night that the Littleton Road re-do, a major project that’s been in progress for two years and has another three years to go, is likely to cost more than the town has bankrolled to pay for it.
DPW Director Richard Nota’s five-year capital plan calls for expending $250,000 annually to finish the job. The selectmen previously approved the plan and passed it on to the other board to work out funding strategies.
The problem now is that the fund set aside for capital projects is nearly depleted, Warren said. “We find it hard to go to $250,000 a year without excluded debt,” he said.
The board discussed adding a debt exclusion article to the annual town meeting warrant.
Selectman Bill Johnson said he was concerned about other road projects the debt exclusion won’t cover.
Warren said that although Nota’s five-year road upgrade projections do include other needed work, there’s no “definitive” project plan yet.
Selectman Tim Clark suggested rolling into the debt exclusion the $500,000 already spent on the Littleton Road project and if the article passes, returning that money to the capital stabilization fund.
Warren confirmed the fund is shrinking fast and could use an infusion. “We’re going to have a hard time meeting all the requests this year,” he said. The balance is down to about $300,000 now, he said.
Chairman Marie Sobalvarro suggested expanding the proposed debt exclusion article to make it multi-purpose, with an itemized list. “We’re running lean, with a lot of (capital) requests that didn’t make the cut,” she said. “People should know that trade-offs are being made.”
But Johnson said he was “uncomfortable” with the notion of patching the problem rather than tackling it systemically. “Will this rule out looking at debt exclusions for other things?” he asked. Before deciding whether to support the proposed warrant article and for how much, he wants to examine the framework.
“I want to know more about our option,” Johnson said. “This feels like a finger in the dike.”
Warren nodded. “Maybe so,” he said. “But we’re working on long term ideas, too” For now, the issue on the table is to ensure the Little Road project the town has already sunk a half million dollars into will be funded to completion.
Asked if the committee would have a big-picture proposal ready for town meeting, Warren said he couldn’t make that promise.
But Town Administrator Tim Bragan said they didn’t have to anyway. “You can always put off capital discussion until fall,” he said.
Meantime, the board didn’t vote on the warrant article and will likely discuss it again before they do.
The Capital Plan Committee would meet again on Thursday, Warren said.