City budget includes local goodies
By David L. Harris/ Staff Writer - West Roxbury Transcript
Thursday, July 8, 2004
After countless hours of hearings, the City Council passed Mayor Thomas M. Menino's $1.9 billion 2005 budget unanimously last week, which includes a good amount of Parkway projects including major improvements to the Roslindale Branch Library and Hynes Field in West Roxbury.
Local politicians greeted the news with a mix of optimism and caution, especially considering that Boston has lost about $80 million in local aid over the past two years, according to District 5 City Councilor Rob Consalvo, vice chairman of the council's ways and means committee.
"There is a light at the end of the tunnel," said Consalvo, adding that the rising cost of health insurance doesn't help.
"Its still a very tough time. The administration, the mayor and his staff deserve a tremendous amount of credit. They made themselves available. [The budget] gives us a very high ability to provide basic city services."
Although the budget is 3.8 percent higher than last year's, another local politician said people have warmed up to the fact that its not perfect.
"A lot of people have accepted the reality [of the economy]," said District City Councilor John M. Tobin Jr. "I don't think it's a budget that we're going to frame on our walls. Things could be a lot worse."
"Boston gets a bad rap sometimes," said Tobin. "Boston is the economic engine of the commonwealth and I would argue New England."
One project that is one Tobin's wish list: a skatepark behind West Roxbury High School. "It's not everybody's tea," he said, "but it's certainly a sport that many kids enjoy... it keeps them off the street."
City Councilor Maura Hennigan said the budget did move more smoothly than previous years. "The process was better than last year's," she said. "There was a little more inclusion of all the members."
Hennigan wished that the city would fund a new fire boat - the current one is in bad condition. She said the firefighters who staff the boat don't have the proper training, either. The budget, however, does include the addition of two police cadet classes and two fire cadet classes, adding 68 police officers and 60 firefighters.
Tough times translate to tough measures sometimes. Hennigan also suggested that the city's overhead could be cut if it would consider using ZipCars instead of city-owned vehicles. Hennigan said the city should be careful about how it spends its money.
"Our economy is starting to improve, this is why we target how we're spending the money," she said. "I'm going to be monitoring how they actually spend it."
All three city councilors said the only thing left to do is follow through on the projects included in the capital budget, which includes a nearly $400,000 improvement to Hynes Field near the VFW Parkway.
Other projects in the design pipeline include: a $1.9 million heating system upgrade to West Roxbury High School; capping the landfill areas at the Gardner Street landfill for $3.6 million; and the $3.3 Centre Street Phase II project, a long-awaited road and sidewalk project that will extend from Mount Vernon Street to Greaton Road.
In Roslindale, improvements included in the capital budget: a $620,000 renovation of Pagel Playground, a $402,000 rehabilitation of the Roslindale Branch Library; a $243,000 project to resurface Healy Field; and a $1 million interior upgrade of Engine 53.
David Harris can be reached at [email protected]