AUGUSTA — City councilors have approved a five-year, $28.7 million capital improvement plan for Augusta.

The plan calls for funding — for next year — the purchases of a new fire truck and ambulance, repairs to the city parking garage that would allow it top reopen its now-closed upper deck and pedestrian safety projects.

The plan also sets aside almost $1.8 million to replace the roof of the Augusta Civic Center, and $600,000 to replace the city’s remaining tennis courts. The roof and tennis court projects would take place over the next three years.

Officials said they hope some of the projects, especially the civic center roof, can secure funding from other sources, such as federal COVID-19 relief dollars for which the city plans to apply through Kennebec County.

Other projects will be funded through bonds, including about $4.4 million worth of projects proposed for next year for which the city would need voter approval to borrow the money.

The spending proposals will not go before voters in November because the plan was not approved in time for the bonds to be on the ballot. Thus, the spending would be put to a vote in June 2022, or the city could hold a special election.

“As you can see, we have quite a few needs in the city in terms of our capital requirements, so we’ll see this on an ongoing basis for the next several years,” Susan Robertson, acting city manager, told councilors who approved the five-year plan last week. “Hopefully, the voters will be supportive of the work that needs to be done.”

Projects proposed for next year include major repairs to the city parking garage off Dickman Street, just above downtown Water Street. The repairs would allow the upper deck of the garage, which has been closed for a couple of years due to deterioration, to reopen.

The proposed bond for the parking garage would provide $750,000 for the project, which Development Director Matt Nazar said would be supplemented with $100,000 already set aside for the work.

“I honestly think we’re going to need every penny of that,” Nazar said.

Dandelions and other weeds grow from cracks Thursday at the Dr. Melendy Tennis Courts, behind the Buker Center in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Another $200,000 of the proposed bonds would go to replacing the Dr. Melendy Tennis Courts, six courts near Buker Center that are the city’s only remaining outdoor courts.

A former tennis court at Calumet Park is now dedicated to pickleball, and former courts near the Capital Area Technical Center, which were no longer in use, have been removed.

The remaining courts, which have cracks, including some with weeds and wildflowers growing through them, are in such poor shape Cony High School has not been able to host tennis tournaments.

“We’re putting Band-Aids on them just to keep them going,” Community Services Director Earl Kingsbury said of the tennis courts. “In the next few years, those will become obsolete. It’s poor drainage. It’s seeping up throughout the bottom. We just can’t keep patching them anymore, so it’s a total reconstruction.”

A proposed new fire truck, at a projected cost of $625,000, would replace Engine 4, which Fire Chief Dave Groder said is a 1994 model. The Fire Department has also proposed buying a new, $310,000 ambulance because the city is now on pace to replace an ambulance every year.

Groder said mileage and wear and tear on city ambulances have increased because they now travel farther to get to MaineGeneral Medical Center in north Augusta, compared to the previous trip when the hospital was on Arsenal Street.

Officials said projects in the first year of the plan are firm, but projects five years out are only projected. Funding priorities could change before those are addressed.

Over its five years, the plan includes more than $2 million in work on sidewalks, crosswalks and other projects related to pedestrian safety, including extending sidewalks on Civic Center Drive, crosswalk improvements on Water Street and $35,000 next year and $135,000 in fiscal 2023 to engineer a proposed new sidewalk on a section of Cony Road, in the area where three people, including a 1-year-old girl, were killed in May while walking along the roadside, where there is no sidewalk.

A 2019 study by the Maine Department of Transportation, prompted by concern over crashes involving pedestrians, recommended the city take steps to improve the visibility of foot traffic.

The capital improvement plan does not include funds that will be borrowed to build a new police station, for which voters in June approved borrowing $20.5 million.

Some of the projects will be funded by a $750,000 bond that city councilors are able to approve. The city charter allows councilors to borrow up to $750,000 a year without seeking voter approval.

Mayor David Rollins said in most years, the city borrows via a council-approved bond, but usually pays off a past bond each year, too.

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