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Newton mayor unveils $241m construction plan

May ask voters for temporary tax hike

‘What’s important here is we are going to move ahead right away,’ said Mayor Setti Warren about Newton’s projects plan. Globe Staff

Mayor Setti Warren of Newton opened the door yesterday to a property tax increase as he unveiled a $241 million plan that calls for more than 300 projects, including renovations or expansions for schools, fire stations, and city hall.

Warren said city officials may ask voters to temporarily raise property taxes to pay for two top priorities: $30 million to replace or repair Angier Elementary School and $5.7 million for a fire station in Newton Centre.

“I believe a debt exclusion override could be an attractive option for the city,’’ Warren said yesterday before presenting his Capital Improvement Plan to the Board of Aldermen.


“What’s important here is we are going to move ahead right away,’’ he said.

The long awaited Capital Improvement Plan is the first big political move since he abandoned his US Senate campaign in September.

Warren said he hopes the rest of the 376 large and small projects, valued at about $241 million, will be funded through the city’s annual bond offering and other regular city funds.

After a detailed analysis of Newton’s infrastructure, city officials ranked projects across the city by the risk that the facility or equipment could fail and also by the consequences of a failure.

Of the top 10 priorities, four were from the School Department, five from the Department of Public Works, and one from the Fire Department.

Replacing or refurbishing the Angier School at an estimated cost of $30 million, was the most expensive item on the list. The school, which opened in 1921, was ranked number four on the priority list.

The number one priority is the repair or replacement of the Bigelow School entrance ramp and stairs, which are crumbling because of improper water drainage, at an estimated cost of $385,000.

Number two is the Carr Building, estimated at $5.2 million, which is being renovated for use as space for students whose school is uninhabitable during a construction project.


The analysis, complete with a series of data on each project, was scheduled to go online last night.

It is a level of transparency and user friendliness that the mayor hopes will revolutionize the city’s traditional five-year plan.

In all, the Capital Improvement Plan, covering fiscal years 2013 (starts July 1, 2012) through 2017, includes 78 municipal and school buildings, roads, water and sewer pipelines, large vehicles, and parks and playgrounds.

The plan and database cost a little more than $400,000 but have already saved much more in costs that can now be avoided, according to Bob Rooney, the city’s chief operating officer.

By looking carefully at every building and piece of infrastructure, the city learned that some planned expenses were not needed at all.

For example, it would soon have been a priority to paint two water towers at a cost of $1.6 million, but with research for the Capital Improvement Plan, the city discovered two of the three water towers are obsolete, so can be taken out of service - and not painted, he said.

“What we have done is put the city on a pathway to meet its strategic vision for what kind of community we want to be,’’ said Warren.