Manchester anticipates capital needs Town to be ready if size doubles NORTH -- Manchester * Hampstead * Lineboro

February 04, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

To one participant, it's crystal ball-gazing. To another, it's good management.

Rapid development may cause Manchester's population to double by 1997, and the town is responding with its first-ever formal capital planning process.

"Businesses do this," said Mayor Earl A. J. Warehime, Jr. "I think it's an efficient way of running the town."

At a budget work session Jan. 27, Town Manager Terry Short gave the council a draft schedule of anticipated capital expenses through the year 1999, along with projections of expected growth for the next five years.

Mr. Short estimated that development will cause the town's population to more than double over the next five years, from an estimated 2,894 in 1991 to a projected 6,098 by fiscal 1997.

But Councilman John A. Riley said yesterday the capital planning process is "just a crystal ball."

"The economy has a lot to do with it," Mr. Riley said. "The crystal ball aspect is the timing of all these developments."

However, Mr. Riley said, going through the planning exercise may be helpful.

"If it does nothing more than put the council on notice that, 'We need these things because of . . .,' that's a value right there," he said.

With rapid growth, Mr. Short said, some capital expenses are unavoidable. For example, Manchester's maintenance department will have to have a new salt spreader. The town "can either think about it, plan for it, save for it, or not," he said.

"The idea is good," said Councilman Gerald Bollinger. "It'll be very helpful."

But Mr. Bollinger said he didn't think the town would grow as fast as Mr. Short predicted.

Asked about his growth predictions, Mr. Short said, "You can put off spending the money, but it's much harder to create the money" if it is needed unexpectedly.

Mayor Warehime said the items on the schedule are "not etched in stone" because "that stuff's not going to happen if the population doesn't grow."

The draft capital improvement schedule includes items such as the periodic purchase of town vehicles, a water meter replacement program, expansions of the water and sewer systems, and construction of a community center.

Although the draft document is described as a "capital improvement schedule," it also includes expected personnel needs.

"As you add capital, you have to add people to take care of it," Mr. Short said.

For example, he said, federal guidelines recommend that a town should have one police officer for every 940 residents. So, the draft improvement schedule includes one additional police officer for Manchester in fiscal 1994 and another in fiscal 1998.

Mr. Short said the town would not have to pay for some of the projected improvements because, as new developments are annexed, developers can be required to provide such amenities as new wells.

The Town Council's next capital improvement meeting is scheduled for Feb. 24.

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