Naples board puts priorities to paper

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer
NAPLES — Naples elected officials looked at an inventory of the town’s buildings and vehicles and began the process of prioritizing future expenditures — some of which are inevitable like a leaky roof.
The conversation was not limited to those obvious pieces of public property, but also covered future development of a drinking water source and continuation of a history-themed water-feature on the Causeway.
The Naples Board of Selectmen on Monday held a lengthy workshop to discuss a long-range plan for the improvement, replacement and required maintenance of all capital: Municipal buildings, vehicles, recreational fields and properties.
“As far as the long-term, we are at a crossroads on a lot of things,” Naples Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak said.
One of those crossroads is the upcoming renewal of the lease with the United States Post Office that was signed 20 years ago.
“I’d like to get direction from the board on which big projects to work on first,” he said.
Also, Paraschak said he would like to put together a capital replacement plan so that the town could budget for vehicles before those rigs reached their life expectancy.
One of the bigger questions Paraschak posed to the selectmen required them to look five to ten years into the future regarding two buildings that are already more than 50 years old — the town hall and the fire station. He asked the board members if they would prefer to budget for renovations to these existing structures or get cost estimates on building new.
He proposed that the board guide him along a long-range plan — either doing annual upgrades to the 70-year-old Town Office or foregoing major improvements in favor of building new.
“Should we start planning for a new building? The town office is 70 years old,” he said, adding he didn’t realize that fact until Town Clerk Judy Whynot looked it up.
“We could get by with it,” he said.
“But, the roof is 20 years old, leaks everywhere. The kitchen is not functional. The roof above the gym is in really rough shape,” Paraschak said.
As far as the Town Office, which once served as an elementary school, the majority of the board favored maintaining the structure rather than investing millions of dollars in a new building.
Selectman Rick Paraschak stressed the importance of not letting the town hall get to a state of disrepair that would embarrass residents who entered its doors.
“It is hard to make a decision on this building. Keep it up so people are proud of it. But, if it needs a roof, we need a roof,” he said.
Selectman Dana Watson said it would be a shame to not maintain and possibly renovate the current town hall.
“My personal choice would be (saving) this building. It has some history here. We just updated the heat. It’s in fairly good shape,” he said,
He added that the roof does leak.
“The gym, yeah, we need to fix that,” he said.
“I would like to pick one — the town office or the fire station. I want to keep both. But, keep one to revere,” Watson said.
The town manager agreed that renovations can be better and are typically less expensive than starting from scratch and building new.
In particular, Paraschak asked for feedback from the board about keeping the fire station where it is, or scouting for a better more central location.
“The fire department is looking to do some improvements. They have put money ($40,000) aside for improvements,” Paraschak said, referring to the department’s capital reserve fund.
The department wants to remodel the kitchen and put in new flooring; and that upgrade is likely to cost between $6,000 and $10,000, he said.
“I just didn’t want them to make improvements if the board would like to look into a brand new fire station,” he said.
As a whole the board engaged in a discussion about how communities or department think it is a great idea to build new, but once they see the cost estimates, it becomes less appealing.
Rick Paraschak suggested making piecemeal improvements to the town hall.
“I am concerned in today’s world $100,000 is nothing. Replacement of a building is in the millions,” he said.
“This building is so multi-purpose: The before and after school programs, summer programs for kids. The gym is not good for basketball, but it is used for many other purposes. (The gym provides) an indoor place for people to have a birthday party or anniversary party,” he said.
Selectman Robert Caron II liked the idea of a five-year plan to revitalize the town office.
“We shouldn’t do it all in one shot deal,” he said.
Caron II asked about the status of repayment on the bond for the Bay of Naples Bridge and Causeway construction.
Residents at Town Meeting about four years ago had also approved two road bonds.
Ephrem Paraschak said he would double-check what was owed and what had been paid off.
Responding to comments about how quickly remodeling costs can add up, the town manager agreed with the board.
“I don’t want that to be a runaway train,” he said.
The preference is “the best the buildings can be without dumping a lot of money into them,” he said.
Looking over the list before him, Selectman Paraschak said he did not want to lose sight of the fire suppression project, which eventually could supply water to the Causeway. A second endeavor, which has a narrowed down list of three potential sites, would conserve a drinking water well and/or water storage unit for the Town of Naples.
“I would like to continue pursuing a water source. I will probably be dead and gone but this town may need water,” he said.
“We should secure something for the next 100 years as a water supply. It will be cheaper now,” he said.
Caron said the next stage was to do two drills and document the refill rates at those sites.
The business that provided the initial well testing was the James W. Sewall Company.
Once more tests are done, the next step would be to secure the property by entering into a real estate purchase or lease with the landowners, Ephrem Paraschak said.
During Monday night’s discussion, Watson commented how much thought and time had gone into the items listed on the workshop agenda.
“I cannot tell you how many years I have been waiting for some town manager to do that,” Watson said.

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