The city needs to borrow big money for big projects, City Treasurer Michael E. White said last week.
White said he's got a list of more than $5 million worth of urgent purchases and repairs, and he said he wants the Common Council to decide how much it wants to approve before it passes the 2012 budget.
That's so the amount of principal and interest payments can be inserted into the final version of the spending plan, on which the Council is scheduled to vote Oct. 5.
"It probably would be the most opportune time to borrow in a long time," White said, pointing to the low interest rate environment dictated by the Federal Reserve Board.
"We haven't been to the bond market in four years, and in that time the city's credit rating has improved," Mayor Michael W. Tucker said.
City Clerk and Budget Director Richard P. Mullaney said the city has an A-minus credit rating from Standard & Poor's. That went up a notch from BBB last year.
White said his list of projects includes the new garbage and recycling bins for the privatized refuse system the city is about to begin. They will cost $980,000, he said.
"We already voted for that, so we have to do it," said Alderman Joseph C. Kibler, chairman of the Council's Finance Committee.
He said the city is similarly without options when it comes to borrowing $241,000 to cover about half the price of a new fire truck it ordered last fall. The rest of the tab was covered by a federal grant.
Also, the city needs to pay off the $440,000 cost of repairing a sinkhole that closed South Transit Road for 22 days this spring.
White said the city needs to refinance the short-term borrowing that paid for $536,000 worth of upgrades at the water filtration plant: an emergency generator building and improvements to the mixing tanks.
City Engineer Norman D. Allen is urging the Council to order new roofs for City Hall and the water and wastewater plants, at $1 million or more per building.
The City Hall project would include replacement of the rooftop heating and air-conditioning units. They were installed at the same time as the current roof, about 20 years ago.
The leaky asphalt roof has been a steady problem at City Hall for years. The office of the mayor's secretary has been flooded at least twice during heavy rainstorms in recent years, and Allen said other trouble spots include the assessor's office, City Court and the copier area on the second floor.
Allen said the city sought proposals from engineering firms. "I'm leaving it up to their expertise to design the roof and estimate the cost," he said.
Kibler said the city should try to get free repairs from the contractor that installed the roof.
Allen said he can't find any records about roof replacements at the water and wastewater plants, so as far as he knows they might be original roofs from the 1940s.
He also said masonry repairs are needed at both plants.
Council President Richelle J. Pasceri said she wasn't sure if the Council should order a new roof for City Hall, "but we definitely need a new roof at wastewater."
Other possible projects include a $500,000 replacement salt barn at the Highways and Parks garage, White said.
The city's unappropriated fund balance as of the end of 2010 was somewhere between $900,000 and $1.5 million, White said. The figures have not been audited, he said.