Watertown’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) includes preparing the former Parker School to house City departments, upgrades to the skating arena, park and recreation projects, and making municipal facilities more energy efficient and less reliant on fossil fuels.
The proposed Watertown Capital Improvement Plan for Fiscal Years 2024-28 includes $245.74 million in projects and equipment purchases, of which $161.39 million would be funded with general obligation bonds.
City Manager George Proakis told the City Council on Tuesday that the numbers could change depending on the rising cost of construction, inflation, and how much tax revenue from new developments (known as new growth) occurs in Watertown. He noted that in past years $2.9 million in tax revenues was used for capital projects, but he estimates the City will spend $3.5 million in coming years.
“A lot of thoughtful work has gone into the CIP and at same time we need to make sure we working within our means,” Proakis said, ” and doing what we can do to continue to maintain our budget and make sure we are doing well regardless of ups and downs, and inflation, interest rates, and potential impact on speed of new growth in our community.”
The City sometimes dips into its reserves — free cash and general stabilization funds — to pay for projects, but Proakis said the City should be prudent when looking at spending those dollars. Some of the reserve was used in the recent purchase of the Parker School, and the free cash account currently has $18.5 million, and there is another $1.3 million in general stabilization. The City tries to keep between 7 and 15 percent of the total budget in reserves, and the amount the city currently has represents 11 percent.
On Jan. 18, the City of Watertown officially took ownership of the former Parker School on Watertown Street. City Manager George Proakis said some of the building will be used for municipal offices, and the rest will be leased to tenants.
The building cost $14 million, and Proakis said it was a less-costly option than constructing a new space.
Some work will be needed to prepare the building to house City offices.
“Some items we discovered in walk through that need addressing this fiscal year are carpeting and painting in the space we are going to try to occupy soon, and minor wall relocation for offices,” Proakis said. “Initial investment for network access will be key for getting any city offices in there.”
In addition, the parking lot will be re-striped to create ADA compliant parking spaces. Projects that could be part of the Fiscal Year 2024 including design costs for a fire suppression system, and making sure the parking lot, which has a steep slope in one area, is handicap accessible.
Ryan Skating Arena
The Capital budget includes several projects at the John A. Ryan Skating arena, including making the arena handicap accessible.
“The situation at the skating rink is there has been settlement in the parking lot area that has caused all of the entrance to separate away from the building in such a way that it requires a complete renovation to make it handicap accessible,” Proakis said.
Other projects include replacing the ammonia detection system, replacing the stands, and replacing the glass boards.
“The hope is to have it all done in Fiscal ’23 (which ends June 30, 2023), so it does not fall over into future fiscal years,” Proakis said
Heating and Cooling Systems
The CIP calls for $4.5 million in heating and cooling systems in municipal buildings. In light of the Resilient Watertown Climate and Energy Plan, Proakis said these projects will be examined to see if they can be redesigned so that they don’t use fossil fuels.
“We want to make sure it is consistent with the Resilient Watertown plan and see if certain units should be replaced with air source or geothermal heat pumps to make sure we provide opportunities for the highest efficient, lowest operational cost units,” Proakis said.
Another project that is part of the Climate and Energy Plan is to make the City’s vehicle fleet plug-in hybrid or electric vehicles. The CIP includes $11.4 million for this purpose. Proakis noted there are some places where this may not make sense, including the Fire Department, which Proakis called “a very complicated piece of this.”
The Capital Plan has nearly 20 park projects in it, and Proakis provided information about when they may be completed. They include renovation of the track and courts as well as the replacement of the artificial turf at Victory Field, playgrounds at five parks, and replacing the courts and the grassy area at Moxley Field.
“There is some interest in the items on this, we want to make sure we have the pieces right,” Proakis said.
While many projects have been approved, construction had been delayed by a number of factors, Proakis said, including the pandemic, an economic downturn, and supply chain challenges.
The schedule was made keeping in mind the city-wide field usage as well as the needs of the Recreation Department and the Watertown Public Schools, Proakis said.
One project not on the schedule, but still on the list of planned projects is a special needs baseball and softball diamond. It remains on the schedule for Fiscal Year 2025, but the exact location has not been determined, Proakis said.
Watertown Parks and Recreation Projects Schedule
- Irving Park – Spring/Summer 2023
- Moxley Court – Summer 2023
- Filippello Splash Pad – Summer 2023
- Upgrade Victory Field Turf – June 2023
- Upper Saltonstall Park/Gazebo – fall 2023 to spring 2024
- Arsenal Park Phase B – Fall 2023 to Spring 2024
- Victory Field Phase II (track and courts) – Spring/Summer 2024
- Lower Saltonstall Park – Summer 2024
- Lowell Playground – Summer 2024
- Walker Pond – Summer 2024/2025
- Howe Playground – Summer 2025
- Bemis Playground – Summer 2025
- Sullivan Playground – Summer 2026
- Victory Field Phase III – Summer 2026
- Filippello Grove Playground – Summer 2026
- Moxley Field – Fall 2026 to Spring 2027
- Filippello Arlington Playground – Summer 2027
- Victory Field Tot Lot – Summer 2028
See the 2024-28 Capital Improvement Plan and the City Manager’s memo by clicking here.