WE ARE HOMETOWN NEWS.

AGAWAM — The City Council will host a public hearing Monday, May 6, on Mayor Christopher Johnson’s proposed Capital Improvements Plan, a town charter- and state law-mandated “wishlist” of projects the town hopes to complete over the next five fiscal years.

“We tried to come up with a realistic plan that can be accomplished over the five years,” Johnson said. “That was my goal.”

Council President Rosemary Sandlin also agreed it was realistic and “an accurate mirror of what’s needed in the next five years.”

“I think it’s a good estimate of what we need to do in the future, but it’s not capped in stone,” she said. “It’s not funded yet.”

The CIP includes plans to rehabilitate the roofs of all four elementary schools: Sapelli, Phelps, Granger and Clark. Johnson said the roofs were installed in the 1990s and are nearing the end of their lifespan. The city is trying to be proactive, he said, by fixing one per year, starting with Sapelli — formerly known as Robinson Park School — in fiscal year 2026. Postponing the repairs any further runs the risk of a roof collapsing, he said.

According to the plan, the estimated cost of the Sapelli roof is $1,098,800. The Phelps roof would follow in FY27 at an estimated cost of $840,000. Granger’s would be in FY28 and is expected to cost $848,000. Clark would be done in FY29 for an estimated $1,078,000. The plan notes that the city may combine all four projects into one if it would be cheaper to do so.

Johnson also said the town is seeking state and federal funds. He could not give the likelihood of receiving Massachusetts School Building Authority funding, because he couldn’t predict when the opportunity for it may open up.

Another project in the capital plan is the Maple Street Safe Routes to School Project, a $3.1 million project by the state to make the street safer for children walking to Sapelli School. Stemming from a Safe Routes for School grant, the project will involve installing things like shared use paths and raised crosswalks in the section from O’Brien’s Corner to Bridge Street, Johnson said.

The work will involve “tearing up the road” and then patching it, Johnson said. He wants the road to have fresh pavement rather than patchwork, though. The estimated cost of that is $625,000 and it will be the town’s responsibility. Johnson said he will bring it to the City Council as part of the FY25 town budget.

Also in the capital plan are improvements to the five-way intersection of Suffield, Cooper and Rowley streets. The project is reaching the end of the design phase, Johnson said, but improvements could include new traffic signals. The plan itself mentions improvements for pedestrians and bike lanes. Although installing a rotary was considered during the process of obtaining state funding, Johnson said that’s probably not happening.

“That would be a very remote possibility,” he said. “That would involve much more extensive land takings and would impact the property owners around that intersection more significantly.”

The goal, Johnson said, is to improve the traffic flow through the intersection, which Johnson said has been impacted by crowding and decades-old equipment.

The project is slated for FY27, but could come sooner or later depending on the final design, what land takings are needed, and future cost estimates, he said. The town has already received $100,000 from the Massachusetts Casino Community Mitigation Fund for design work and $833,000 from the fund for construction. The rest will likely be bonded out, Johnson said, for 15 to 20 years, but the town is still looking for more state or federal money.

Most importantly, the capital plan includes the $230,245,404 high school building project, which will either be confirmed or canceled by the voters at a special election on June 11.

More specifically, voters will decide on whether or not to approve a debt exclusion. Debt exclusions allow cities and towns to temporarily increase the property tax levy limit beyond the 2.5% per year set by the state law known as Proposition 2½. Johnson has previously said the town already has space under its levy limit to raise enough taxes for the project, but that a debt exclusion would give it more financial flexibility.

Sandlin said whether the capital plan is funded or not depends if the city has “room in our bonding levels,” which she said it will if the high school debt exclusion is approved. While she said the new high school would be good for the community, and for its property values, she also said the City Council would respect the voters’ decision.

“I don’t think there’s any appetite in the City Council to override the will of the voters on the high school,” she said.

Johnson reiterated his support for a new high school, saying it would be “foolish” to keep throwing money at the current one, a 1955 building that has been renovated and expanded several times. He said if it wasn’t approved, though, the city could look at different capital needs next year.

“If that doesn’t happen, then in next year’s plan, we can look at potentially some other needs, which could include more investment in basic infrastructure, like paving and sidewalks,” he said.

He also said the town could use a new town hall.

“At some point, the town should consider building a modern city hall,” he said. “In my opinion, it would allow for a more efficient operation of our government.”

Another factor in implementing the plan is whether prices increase enough that the city has to delay the projects.

“If they all come in at or abound the numbers, it should be doable,” said Johnson. “With the high school project in balance, it’s a very conservative plan.”

The City Council’s public hearing on the plan will take place at its May 6 meeting, during which Johnson will give a presentation on it. Council meetings start at 7 p.m. in the Senior Center, 954 Main St., Agawam. All are welcome to participate.

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