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Middletown borough wish list? 55 projects, costing a total of $25.8 million

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 1/17/18

A plan by consulting engineers hired by Middletown Borough Council lists 55 capital improvement projects that the borough should complete in the next decade — at an estimated cost of $25.8 …

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Middletown borough wish list? 55 projects, costing a total of $25.8 million

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A plan by consulting engineers hired by Middletown Borough Council lists 55 capital improvement projects that the borough should complete in the next decade — at an estimated cost of $25.8 million.

Ranked in terms of priority, the projects include repairs, maintenance, and upgrades to roads, bridges and the stormwater system throughout the borough. The plan covers the years 2018 to 2027.

The projects also include repairs and upgrades to the borough’s electrical distribution system, such as a proposed upgrade to the electrical substation on Spruce Street that at an estimated $4.9 million would be the most expensive of the 55 projects.

The Spruce Street upgrade is tied to the electric substation on Mill Street, which is in a flood plain and was damaged by Tropical Storm Lee in 2011.

The borough received $250,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to repair the Mill Street substation and to install its equipment at a higher elevation.

But FEMA has since notified the borough that the agency will not provide any funding to repair the Mill Street substation if it is flooded again, according to the capital improvement study which was done by consulting engineers Herbert, Rowland and Grubic Inc., or HRG.

The Spruce Street station was built in 1975-76 and its equipment has reached the end of “its usable life,” the study says.

If the Mill Street substation is ever knocked out of commission again, the Spruce Street substation would not be able to handle the load of supplying electricity to the entire borough, according to the study.

Upgrading Spruce Street would allow the substation to carry the entire load for all of Middletown, “with additional capacity for the proposed Woodland Hills development,” the study says.

A separate recommended project in the study calls for relocating the Mill Street substation out of the flood plain — at an estimated cost of $820,000 — but only after the Spruce Street station is upgraded.

The borough could leave the Mill Street substation in the flood plain and use it just for system redundancy, but the study recommends moving the substation to higher ground to protect borough assets in case of another flood.

Another potential big-ticket item in the study includes upgrades to the stormwater system throughout Middletown.

Much of this is driven by federal and state government mandates being imposed on the borough following a settlement agreed to by the federal government in 2010 to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, according to the study.

The stormwater work includes a number of projects in the borough that by themselves are relatively inexpensive, but when put together reach a combined estimated price tag of just less than $931,000.

The study notes that the borough can impose a fee on property owners to help pay for upgrades to the stormwater system, based upon the amount of stormwater that is discharged from a given property into the borough’s stormwater system.

The study also “strongly” recommends the borough work with adjoining municipalities to form a “regional authority” to oversee the upgrading and maintaining of stormwater systems.

The 55 projects also include separate evaluations that would be done of borough-owned facilities — including Borough Hall, and of the facilities that are used to support the public works department and the police department.

These evaluations would look at whether the borough is using these facilities in the most efficient manner, or if changes are needed.

In the case of public works, for example, the department now has buildings “scattered across the entire borough. This makes it difficult to maintain equipment and supplies efficiently as well as perform routine duties efficiently,” the study says.

The study offers an overview of the pros and cons of the four main “traditional” ways of financing capital projects: borrowing money through issuing debt, obtaining grants, entering into public-private partnerships, and the “pay-as-you-go” method of using general fund and accumulated capital reserve money to pay for projects.

Borough council in August 2016 awarded the contract to HRG to do the capital improvement study. The borough received a state grant that provided $37,500 toward the cost of funding the study.

HRG’s cost to prepare the plan was $55,675.99, leaving the borough’s share not covered by the grant at $18,175.99.

HRG presented the study to the borough in May 2017. Council in June voted to formally accept the study as the borough’s capital improvement plan.

Accepting the study does not obligate or commit the borough to doing any of the projects. The study is meant as a document to guide the borough in planning and funding capital improvement projects over the 2018-to-2027 time frame.

None of the projects in the plan are addressed in the 2018 general fund budget that council approved in December, according to borough Public Works Director Greg Wilsbach.

“We are currently evaluating all projects as they are not funded and need to be prioritized,” he told the Press & Journal in an email on Jan. 11.

Council has been discussing one of the road-paving projects listed in the plan — Ann Street — for months. But the plan calls for paving many other borough-owned roads and streets throughout Middletown over the next 10 years — including Spring, Spruce, Aspen, Mill, Race, Hoffer, Adelia, North Wood, North Pine streets; and Briarcliff, Park Circle, and Hillsdale roads.

The study also recommends the borough develop a “fleet management program” to establish policies for the acquisition, maintenance, replacement, and reassignment/disposal of borough-owned vehicles and equipment.

“The average age of the borough’s vehicles and equipment is 15 years old with several items falling significantly outside of the average age,” the report says.

The nearly $26 million in projects identified in the study does not include all capital improvement challenges that the borough faces.

For example, fire department officials during hearings for the 2018 budget put council on notice that three big rigs will need to be replaced between now and 2028 — at an estimated total cost of $4.3 million.