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May 1, 2014

Lawrence capital budget will be first in a decade

LAWRENCE — Mayor Daniel Rivera is preparing a spending plan for major improvements, repairs and purchases that will be the city’s first capital budget since money for big-ticket items began running out a decade ago.

The City Charter requires mayors to submit the plans annually to the City Council, but Mayor Michael Sullivan submitted his last in 2004 and former Mayor William Lantigua never submitted one.

Yesterday, Finance Director Mark Ianello said Rivera will submit a capital budget along with his first operating budget in about another two weeks, but he emphasized that there still is little money to pay for many of the projects the plan will recommend. The plan will recommend spending up to $60 million over five years.

Unlike operating budgets, capital budgets typically are paid for largely with borrowed money that is paid off over decades.

The city spent $1.6 million on capital improvements this year, all of it on the schools.

“It was earmarked pretty quickly,” Ianello said. “There’s such a need in the schools.”

The capital spending in the city’s 28 school buildings included $462,840 on HVAC & plumbing improvements; $259,741 on electric, window and hardware improvements; $669,784 on masonry and paving and $106,150 for miscellaneous maintenance, including a wheelchair lift at the Bruce School annex, according to Chris Markuns, a spokesman for the School Department.

The new capital budget for the city has been longer than a year in the works. Lantigua appointed a capital projects committee — composed of a dozen or so department heads and led by Ianello — early in 2013. The committee met several times last year but has not met this year.

The wish list the department heads assembled includes police cruisers, lawn mowers, roof repairs, boilers, pumper trucks, defibrillators, street sweepers, ball fields, snow plows, street lights, a salt shed. A new police headquarters costing about $20 million is the most expensive by far of the proposed projects, and is also one of the most unlikely.

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