Amherst mayor Mark Costilow drafts his 2016 budget ‘wish list’

Streets, fleet, and tech will be in proposal to city council

Mayor Mark Costilow

Mayor Mark Costilow

A healthy $1 million in unspent city general fund cash has been carried over into the new year, according to numbers provided Friday by Amherst deputy auditor Gwen Melbar.

That’s a nice boost from last year’s reserve, which totalled a little more than $865,000.

Now mayor Mark Costilow is plugging those dollars into the 2016 budget proposal he intends to hand to city council’s finance committee Feb. 1.

Leaders adopted a partial budget in the fall that would last through March. With the carryover now calculated and end-of-year invoices closed out, Costilow and auditor David Kukucka will seek approval for operating cash to cover the rest of the calendar year.

“I think mayor (David) Taylor left is in good shape, which he was very good at,” said Costilow, who was elected to follow in his mentor’s footsteps, taking office Jan. 1.

Costilow has been drafting what he calls a “wish list.”

It includes projects and purchases he’ll ask council to greenlight:


The 2016 budget proposal includes just over $1 million for street resurfacing, which marks a significant increase over the $553,000 approved last year.

Costilow said he wants to pave 10 residential streets this summer.

That number doesn’t include Rt. 58, which will be completely redone from Cleveland Street south in an Ohio Department of Transportation project. The city already fronted its $200,000 share in 2015 at ODOT’s request.

It does include Cooper Foster Park Road paving west of Target, which will be mostly covered by state Issue 2 funding. Amherst will pay roughly $200,000.

That leaves in the neighborhood of $800,000 for long block-to-block stretches on five or six well-traveled roadways in town, plus a lot of intermittent repairs to extend the life of other streets.


A salt truck needs to be retired, Costilow said.

It’s a decade old and has a lot of wear and tear, but can be pressed into lighter service in another Amherst department, hauling fill dirt and other loads.

A replacement would cost around $150,000 and come equipped with a saltbox and plow blade.

Another vehicle, an electric department “digger” vehicle, has been in the city fleet since the 1980s. It’s used to lift and replace utility poles.

This year, Amherst workers will assess all the city’s poles. But the old truck doesn’t lift transformers the way it used to, Costilow said. It’s costing a lot in maintenance and annual certification.

He’s undecided on whether to ask council to purchase or lease a replacement. The cost of a new digger is estimated at $220,000.


The city has been replacing water meters at homes and businesses for years, installing new “radio read” devices that can be checked remotely.

It’s time to speed up that process, Costilow said.

“If we don’t hurry up, we’re going to be replacing some of the newer ones before we’re done replacing all the older ones,” he said.


Amherst’s government buildings should be connected with high-speed fiber optic lines so data can be shared between departments, the mayor said.

There is no dedicated connection at the moment.

Costilow has already invited a couple of technology firms to look at the city’s data-sharing needs and give advice.

At roughly $40,000 per mile, laying fiber optic cable will be an expensive proposition. Costilow said he is eager to connect city hall and the San Spring building on Park Avenue, but outlying offices such as the Amherst electrical building probably won’t be affordable, at least for now.

He said he also wants to purchase new digital phones and upgrade Internet service.


Further plans for 2016 spending are expected in Costilow’s State of the City address, which will tentatively be given to council in early March.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

Mayor Mark Costilow Mark Costilow
Streets, fleet, and tech will be in proposal to city council