Concord budget fortells major future spending

The Concord Group Insurance Companies building is now empty as the corporate headquarters has moved to Bedford.

The Concord Group Insurance Companies building is now empty as the corporate headquarters has moved to Bedford. GEOFF FORESTER

Some of the damage to the clubhouse at Beaver Meadow Golf Course in Concord.

Some of the damage to the clubhouse at Beaver Meadow Golf Course in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER

By CATHERINE McLAUGHLIN

Monitor staff

Published: 05-26-2024 8:00 AM

Modified: 05-29-2024 11:18 AM


The $53.6 million Concord wants to spend on capital projects next year doubles the current figure — but it pales in comparison to what’s to come.

Several major city building projects are slated for 2026, meaning increases in coming years would likely tower over the anticipated 3.89% tax increase in the budget before City Council for next year.

Projects currently in the budget include design work for a new police station, city vehicle purchases, a new airport terminal and major investments in sewer and wastewater systems.

More than $3 million is being set aside to design the new police headquarters planned off North State Street. The council went through with buying the Concord Group Insurance building in April and city staff, recommended a renovation and sizeable addition of the mid-century building with a total price tag of more than $41 million.

Sewer work, paid for through city wastewater funds, are the big-ticket items being considered for the capital plan. They include $16.9 million for updates and construction on a sewer main serving the east side of the city, $7.7 million for several of the city’s eight pump stations — including one near the Steeplegate Mall — and $5 million for work on the city’s wastewater treatment plant off Hall Street.

The Hall Street Plant, which dates back to 1981, is the largest in the city, and city plans to spend almost $30 million on it over the next decade. That’s not because the city has allowed it to fall into disrepair, Chip Chesley told the council.

“It is by nature a corrosive environment,” Chesley said.

Concord would put nearly $3 million towards new vehicles — more than $1 million for a new fire engine and almost $1.8 million for general updates to the city’s fleet, especially as it looks to electrify.

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A nearly six-figure replacement for the breathing apparatus protective equipment for firefighters adds to the capital investments in the fire department.

Money to renovate or rebuild the clubhouse at Beaver Meadow Golf Course appears on the docket for the 2026 budget while city staff develop a wider array of options for its future. Bonds tied to the city’s golf fund next year would pay for an expansion and replacement of the parking lot.

Almost $575,000 is set aside for a replacement of the Garrison Park Pool, though the council has not yet formally determined whether to re-do the pool or to put in a splash pad like the one at White Park. The splash pad requires fewer staff, but is more expensive to build — roughly $650,000, according to figures from the Parks department.

Debt taken on for capital projects doesn’t hit tax bills until the following budget year, meaning the proposed tax increase is partly possible because of the smaller capital budget last year, and projects approved now will be first felt by residents next year.

Significant city projects — the new police station, the Loudon Road Bridge and the Beaver Meadow Clubhouse — are planned for 2026, when city capital spending would double again, topping $100 million, as laid out in the 2025 proposed budget.

Notably, those projects — unlike the biggest items in the coming year — will be funded by property taxes. The amount of capital expenditures pulling from general funds in 2026 would rise more than fivefold from the $11 million on the table for next year. A new fire station, new library, and updates to the City Hall Campus are also on the horizon.

City Manager Tom Aspell said to the Council Thursday night that a failure to keep up with building projects had contributed to a deluge.

“For many, many, many years thecity did not focus on buildings. I have been trying — since I’ve been manager — to bring that focus back on buildings,” he said. “So you’ve got a lot of things in front of you to take care of.”