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Bethlehem assembles list of capital projects

Though this work would have been included in yearly budgets, having its long-term impact visualized in the capital plan shows the result of deferring infrastructure work, said Supervisor Jack Cunningham.

"If the town had something in place like this 10 years ago, I think we'd be way further down the field in maintaining the current infrastructure," he said. "The approach has always been kind of a seat of your pants approach Whatever's collapsing that year, you replace, and if you can't afford it, you defer it."

Next year looks to be an expensive one for the town, as the recommendations call for $24 million of spending in the water fund alone. Cunningham said the town has been aware of these approaching costs and should be able to meet the challenge, partly by tapping reserve funds.

Paying for many capital improvements will likely to come down to borrowing, though, given the high costs of many items. The town is not carrying a great deal of long term debt. Under state law, Bethlehem can take on a maximum of $212 million of debt, or seven percent of the five-year average full valuation of taxable property in town. The town is carrying $6.7 million in debt, minus certain water and sewer debt allowed by the system.

Not included in the capital plan are three projects identified in a 2006 facility needs analysis. They are, in order of importance: to consolidate the Highway Department and DPW at 74 Elm Avenue East and expand the existing facilities there at a cost of $7.8 million; build a new 41,000-square-foot Police Department and Justice Court facility at an yet-to-be-determined location at a cost of $11 million; and to make renovations and expansion to Town Hall at a cost of $5.7 million.

The 2006 report noted that there have not been major improvements to town facilities since the 1970s, and since then, town's population has grown.

"'We've kind of outgrown the town hall and we've also outgrown a lot of the facilities we have out there," Cansler said.

If the capital plan is adopted, it will become a living document to be analyzed and updated every budget cycle. The Capital Planning Committee meets monthly.

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