MADISON – A new Emergency Operations Center is one step closer to becoming a reality, after the Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to accept about $2.47 million in FEMA grant money for the project on Tuesday.
“We’ve gotten all the paperwork mostly done with the grant and they’ll be sending us the money in October,” First Selectwoman Peggy Lyons said at the meeting. The project is estimated to cost about $3.5 million.
The grant will now go to the Board of Finance for final approval next week.
Lyons said the town met with FEMA officials in August while they visited Madison Hose Co. No. 1, which will house the operations center. The town is also looking to hire a project management consultant for the project.
Samuel DeBurra, the town’s emergency management director, said the new center would handle emergency operations during disasters like major storms.
“It’s more or less for town operations in responding to emergencies,” he said.
The operations center will be located on the second floor of the fire department at 665 Boston Post Road, while the first floor would primarily be the bay for firetrucks and other emergency apparatuses. The top floor would be an immersive operations center.
Regular operations of the firehouse shouldn’t be compromised while the addition of the operations center is added, DeBurra said, though they may have to relocate some of the apparatuses for a time.
A five-person committee will be established to oversee the project, Lyons said, an effort that’s been part of the town’s capital improvement plan for 20 years.
“We’re excited it’s moving forward,” she said. “Once we come back and we hire a project manager, we’ll get the design process going.”
The board also unanimously approved $1 million from the Department of Energy for the emergency shelter generator project at Polson Middle School, and an application for a $4 million grant for the Academy Community Center building project.
“We probably won’t know if we win this until the end of the year,” Lyons said. “If we get this, we basically cut in half the bonding the town will be doing for the Academy.”
Pushing for Capital Improvements
Bringing long-awaited projects like the Emergency Operations Center to fruition is part of Lyons’ larger goal of expanding capital improvements in town through grant-funded initiatives and a robust fund balance.
The Madison Investment Plan, as it’s called, was rolled out last year. The town currently has over $20 million in its fund balance, Lyons said, though it’s only required to retain 10 percent – or $9 million – of its annual budget.
“We know because bonding projects were approved, we’d be incurring debt service into our budgets over the next five to 10 years,” she said. “We’re also coming off some debt service as well. Our goal is to mitigate that impact on future budgets.”
With a combination of $5.3 million received in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds and a town surplus, Lyons said Madison is in a fortunate position.
“We’ve been very aggressive in going after state and federal grants for different projects,” she said. “We’ve put this plan together. For every $1 we spend of taxpayer dollars in our capital plan, we’re trying to match it or exceed it with a grant offset. That allows us to keep going with our capital.”
Historically, she said, town leadership has cut capital projects in order to keep the mill rate down.
“That’s why we’re in a position where we have an extensive list of projects that haven’t been completed in a more optimum timeline,” she said. “Our goal is we keep moving forward with our capital projects so we can make a dent in our CIP list.”
Since 2020, the town has been awarded about $13 million in grants, she said, including a $4 million state Urban Act Grant toward the Academy School renovation project and $2.57 million for improvements to Copse and Warpas roads.
“Some of those are projects in CIP we have funding for, we’ve been saving for,” she said. “Some of them are newer projects that we’ll probably want to use our fund balance to appropriate our match. We’ve had a lot of discussions about capital projects that will be dipping into the fund balance to match over the next six to 12 months.”
Other potential grants in the pipeline include a $401,000 STEAP grant for the gym floor at the town campus, which is expected to be awarded this month; an $800,000 grant from the Community Connectivity Grant Program for Scotland Road reconstruction expected to be awarded in October; a $113,900 federal grant for a new social worker position; and a $69,100 grant from the Clean Water Fund for the Wastewater Facilities Plan, which would be reimbursed upon project completion.
Board member Scott Murphy said he appreciated the update on Madison’s grant applications.
“I think it’s important to paint the full picture of our investments,” he said. “I think sometimes we focus too much on the expense component of it instead of the other side of the balance sheet, income coming in to offset the cost.”