Vote on Beacon Falls loan now going to referendum
BEACON FALLS — The vote on a proposed 10-year, $1.4 million loan will take place at a referendum rather than a town meeting as originally planned.
The decision on whether to accept the loan will go to referendum June 21. Voting will take place from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. at Laurel Ledge Elementary School. The vote was originally scheduled for a town meeting Thursday night.
First Selectman Gerard Smith said even though there will not be a vote on Thursday, the town will still meet to discuss the facts of the loan. The town meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the firehouse on North Main Street.
The vote was changed after a petition drive was started to force it to a referendum.
The Board of Selectman voted to make the change during a special meeting Friday, in which Smith and Selectman David D’Amico were present, rather than wait for the petition process to unfold.
Smith said if the town was to wait for the petition to have the required number of signatures, it might bring the vote passed some deadlines the town is hoping to make.
“If we waited for them to get the signatures it could jeopardize $500,000 in grants,” Smith said.
Smith added the town also has certain loans it was able to secure 5 percent interest on that he did not want to risk losing.
The petition for a referendum was started by former First Selectman Susan Cable and members of the Democratic Town Committee.
Cable explained the petition was not in response to the loan itself, but rather to give all of the residents a chance to vote at their convenience.
“We’re not saying yes for or against it, we’re saying it’s important to give everybody the opportunity to vote because this is going to affect their taxes for a long time,” Cable said.
Cable said when people heard about the petition they were interested in signing.
“Overwhelmingly people wanted it to go a referendum,” Cable said. “We generated enough interest, and it’s important we have a meeting.”
Cable was also worried about the legality of the guardrails along Blackberry Hill Road, which had been added the loan. Cable felt that if the guardrails are over $20,000, they needed to go to a town meeting to be voted on separately.
Smith explained the guardrails were paid for from a Public Works Highway Maintenance line item, not from the project itself.
This means the money has already been approved for the use of guardrails and does not need to come before a town vote to be transferred and used, he said.
The original price of the project was approximately $524,250 and the engineering will add approximately $56,500, Smith said. The town has only received $400,000 in grants, which is why it needs the money in the loan to complete the project, he explained.
Although the board voted to go forward with the referendum, Smith was worried about how much money it was going to cost the town.
“It forced the board to make a decision that will cost the town over $4,000 to do something that we could have done for free on Thursday night,” Smith said.
However, Smith emphasized the importance of moving forward with the loan process.
“Time is of the essence with the loan because the loan is tied to the budget,” Smith said.
Cable felt the petition circulated by the town committee helped make people aware of the vote that was scheduled to take place.
“We’re another avenue to make people aware. We’re not for or against the loan; we just want to make people aware,” Cable said.
The vote on June 21 is whether to authorize the town to enter into a 10-year, $1.14 million loan. The loan, which is broken into five sections, covers large ticket items such as refurbishing the ambulance, paying for portions of the streetscape project, and upgrades and maintenance for the sewage treatment plant.