NEW MARKET – Planning Commission members have recommended that Town Council members approve Town Manager Todd Walters’ plan for major investments when they meet later this month.
For the second time in as many weeks, Walters, at Monday’s commission meeting, went over the big-ticket items the town will have to purchase over the next five years.
Walters’ plan calls for a little more than $3 million in fiscal year 2020 and another $1 million in 2021 before tapering down once the town completes its water tower projects. Building a new water tower is at the top of Walters’ agenda along with completing a sidewalk project on East Lee Highway and establishing a plan for replacing town equipment.
“We have to start replacing some of this stuff,” Walters said. “If you don’t have some sort of replacement cycle, this stuff doesn’t last forever, and maintenance will start killing us.”
The town has two prospective sites to build its new water tower but, Walters said, they are leaning toward the site on Ship Street. The town signed a six-month option on the property and extended that option last month, he said. The first geotechnical survey on the site came back positive, telling town officials the land was suitable for building a tower on the site.
Town officials are working with an engineering consultant on applications for funding to cover the costs of the roughly $3 million project. Walters told Planning Commission members the town was taking out low-interest loans.
Walters said his biggest concern is residents will not understand how important a new water tower is — for safety as well as suitable service.
“The placement of this tank will also be in our growth area,” Walters said. “It will also improve our fire [response]. It will also improve our flows to our residents.”
Walters’ report to Planning Commission members was shorter than his full report before the Town Council at a work session last week. Walters said the plan was front-loaded to accommodate the water tower projects but showed reduced expenditures in future years.
Town Police Chief Chris Rinker explained the need to replace police vehicles and how scheduled cycling of vehicles will be good for the town. Equipment in some of the vehicles his officers are still using isn’t available anymore, he said, so replacing parts can be expensive.
New radio equipment, safety glass, bars and lights for vehicles don’t fit on older models, so the town has to prepare to purchase new ones.
Walters told the commission the line for a new vehicle in the coming year was contingent on hiring a new officer — something that has yet to be approved as a budget item.
Planning Commission member Tim Palmer, who is also a town councilman, encouraged his colleagues to come to Town Council meetings over the coming months as the budget is hashed out.
“The [Capital Improvement Plan] is only a recommendation, a reflection of what we’re possibly doing,” Palmer said. “The budget is going to be the reality.”
“When you come to the budget meetings council has, you’ll find out about where the dollars are going to have to be allocated and spent,” he continued. “This is just a recommendation put forward. Come to council meetings and see what’s being spent.”
Greg Bair and Planning Commission Chairman Greg Daugharty were not present for Monday’s meeting.