By Bob Uphues
The village of Brookfield has always invested in capital projects like street repairs and storm sewer installation. It has also continued to purchase new emergency vehicles, like squad cars and fire engines, whenever the old ones wear out.
But Brookfield has typically addressed those kinds of needs as they come up or, as happened in recent years, when there have been grants to help pay for such expenditures. Often large public works efforts are tied to election campaigns and promises but don't follow any particular set schedule.
On Sept. 9, the village manager's office is expected to unveil a detailed five-year capital plan — the first of its kind for as long as anyone can remember. It's the kind of document that not only gives a long-range picture of when infrastructure projects and vehicle replacement should be made, but also lays out estimated costs for those expenditures so the village board, now and in the future, can plan to fund them.
"Every administration all along has had some sort of plan of action. It's not to say capital projects have never been planned," said Keith Sbiral, Brookfield's assistant village manager and point person on the capital plan. "What we're trying to do is program it out longer so the [village] board has real good information to do 4-5 years of capital planning, and so there's a rolling plan in place for the next board to have some sort of footing to start on."
On Aug. 26, Sbiral distributed a draft capital plan to village trustees and laid out a timetable for completing a final capital plan. Trustees are expected to meet in a workshop setting in September or October to hash out priorities. The expectation is that the village board would pass a five-year capital plan in November when it also adopts its 2014 operating budget.
Sbiral called the draft capital plan presented last month "comprehensive" in that it included infrastructure projects and a vehicle replacement schedule that addressed all of Brookfield's capital needs.
But he said it wasn't a wish list. It was a list of expenditures the village was going to have to make sooner or later. It will be the board's job to sort out details of timing and funding.
"We didn't make this a kid-in-a-candy-shop kind of approach," Sbiral told village board members on Aug. 26. "As we move forward, we'll be going from comprehensive to realistic to implementable."
What Sbiral presented, however, was a sobering document that revealed Brookfield was investing too little in capital expenditures to keep up, especially with respect to road resurfacing and reconstruction.
Brookfield, according to Sbiral, spends about $2 million annually on capital projects, not including grant funding it has received. His draft plan for capital expenditures for 2014 through 2018 indicates the village has capital needs of between $6.3 and $7.3 million.
In an operating budget of around $24 million, Sbiral said he knows it is highly unlikely that the village will be able annually to free up that kind of money for capital projects. That's where planning comprehensively comes in.
"No one's thinking we're going to come up with $6 million in revenue," said Sbiral. "We have to find a point between [$2 million and $6 million], come up with the funding and leverage grants so we know where we're going each year."
In 2014, Sbiral projected almost $7.3 million in capital funding, including such things as $120,000 for police vehicles; $475,000 for fire vehicles; $375,000 for public works vehicles and building maintenance; and $3.8 million for street resurfacing, parking lot repairs and streetscaping projects.
The road expenditures will largely be driven by a new street condition survey, which will also be unveiled Sept. 9. The survey will target streets most in need of repair and give a suggested schedule for replacement.
"This isn't a wish list; it's replacing what we need," said Village President Kit Ketchmark at the Aug. 26 board meeting. "We're going to have some tough decisions to make here."