After something lengthy debate, Quincy city councilors approved over a half-million dollars in capital expenses Tuesday, all of them supplementing budgets passed by city departments.
Allocations include approximately $130,000 for unexpected light bills, $175,000 for an additional street sweeper, and $225,000 in Park Department and Cemetery Department vehicles.
“I’m at the final straw with capital expenditures that aren’t included in the budget,” said City Councilor Brian Palmucci near the end of discussions.
The requests were varied. Department of Public Works Commissioner Daniel Raymondi said the light bill stemmed from yet unperformed switch of streetlights to more-efficient bulbs.
Raymondi said the budget had been reduced by $300,000 in anticipation of savings the new lights would bring.
“The anticipation is things would have happened by now, but they didn’t,” Raymondi told councilors.
The delay largely has to do with a hold up with National Grid giving the city control over 6,000 lights. The cost of the purchase has been wrapped up in legal debate between both parties for months, delaying the city switching the lights to LED bulbs.
Long term, issues still abound over how much to cost of the purchase will be and if any ancillary costs will be attached to the switch.
In the short term, councilors agreed to pay the $130,000 bill. Raymondi said further delays will mean additional bills.
“The anticipation is if we don’t see those savings in the next couple months, these bills will need to be paid,” Raymondi said.
Councilors also agreed to purchase a street sweeper for $175,000, bringing the fleet to six.
Raymondi said one sweeper with 96,000 miles on it is in poor condition and too unreliable for a citywide street-sweeping plan that looks to sweep two wards in one week’s time.
“We’ve condensed a work schedule from two to three months to three weeks,” Raymondi said, adding that the time savings would allow crews to do more work on sidewalks.
The machine is in addition to the 21 vehicles the Department of Public Works has purchased in the last two fiscal years.
“There has been heavy acquisition and spending,” critiqued Councilor Brad Croall.
Councilor Brian McNamee suggested the department refurbish equipment rather than purchase new.
Yet Councilor Joseph Finn supported the request, saying that the equipment was necessary to allow city employees to do the work.
“Again and again, it’s been shown by doing this public, the savings and efficiencies and quality of the job is significant,” Finn said.
Councilors were also critical of requests from Park and Forestry Department Executive Director Christopher Cassani for several vehicles.
Cassani said the park department needed a ramp truck, a dump truck, and a new pick up truck. Requests were also submitted for either two pick up trucks for the cemetery department or a dump truck.
“It’s a lot of equipment and I think the taxpayer expects me to be a bit tougher,” said McNamee, who was the lone dissenting vote on a majority approval.
Palmucci also bristled at the idea that staff increases were made without the necessary equipment purchases.
“This is a basic expense, basic costs to deliver those core services, but they weren’t included in those budget discussions,” Palmucci said.
Cassani said the department was “getting by” with current equipment. Councilors approved the request by majority.
All funding for requests will come from "free cash," or excess money not used in previous budget cycles.