North Adams rolls out five-year, $37 million infrastructure plan

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NORTH ADAMS — City officials have unveiled an ambitious plan to invest more than $37 million in crumbling infrastructure over the next five years.

Major investments in two reservoirs, an aqueduct, 80 miles of sewer lines, dozens of parks and 73 miles of local roads would kick in as its debt service payments begin to drop in the coming years.

The proposed plan, presented to the City Council at its Tuesday meeting and sent to the Finance Committee for further review, was completed by Monica Lamboy of the Center for Public Management at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.

"We've been working on this document for close to a year," Mayor Richard Alcombright said.

Though not illustrated in fine detail — that will be done in committee meetings — the plan touched on nearly every facet of the city.

Spending items included $9 million for city facilities, $780,000 for technology, nearly $12 million in parks, sidewalks, school facilities, and vehicle equipment, and more than $11 million in water and sewer infrastructure.

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"I'm personally very excited to see this level of long-term planning happen," said Councilor Eric Buddington. "I think it bodes really well for our long-term financial situation."

The city's aqueduct, which connects the Mount Williams and Notch reservoirs, which make up the primary source of the residents' drinking water, is in "imminent danger of failure," Lamboy said.

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"Water is one of those things we take for granted until we can't take it for granted anymore," he said.

The city will rely on a variety of sources to fund these projects, primarily $21.69 million in state and federal aid and $12.17 million from its water and sewer fee system.

Both the city's general fund and water and sewer debt service payments are expected to decline rapidly over the next several years as the bond for former improvements to the water treatment plant comes off the books.

"One of our first principles is where you are already paying debt service and your debt service is declining, let's capture that and reinvest it back in the community," Lamboy said.

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Under the proposed plan, the some debt payments would not drop significantly until fiscal 2043.

"Some communities find debt a bit scary, and I understand it seems like these are big numbers that we're talking about, but the rates of investment, interest rates are so cheap right now that it's really a way to cost-effectively address these long-standing issues that you have," Lamboy said.

Councilor Lisa Blackmer noted that the plan includes funding for a study of the city's public safety building situation, but does not include funding for any actual capital improvement.

Lamboy noted that the plan is flexible and new projects can be inserted in.

Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.


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