Beacon Falls voters approve two out of three bond items at referendum

Election administrator Katherine Grace, right, checks Susan Agamy's driver's liscense as she prepares to vote at Laurel Ledge Elementary School Tuesday.

BEACON FALLS – Voters approved two items in a bond package, but rejected $5.1 million for road and sanitary sewer main improvements in a referendum Tuesday.

The biggest ticket on the ballot, the $5.1 million for road repairs, fell by just 66 votes, 225 to 291.

First Selectman Susan Cable said she thought the no vote was a result of sticker shock and misinformation.

“I believe that was because people were given misinformation about purchasing a machine. The priority was to do roads and now we have to look at another way to do roads,” Cable said.

Cable said the town planned to purchase Benedetti recycled hot emulsified asphalt treatment equipment only if it proved to be a cost savings. The machine resurfaces roads faster than the conventional method.

“It will be a longer process now because we’ll have to prioritize which roads need to be done first and see if there’s any money out there to help us do that,” Cable said.

She said the boards of Selectmen and Finance will have a joint meeting next week to discuss the proposed budget for next year.

Louis Krepinevich, a member of the Board of Finance, said the equipment would end up saving the town money.

“This is all about trying to save money during difficult economic times in order to help pay for things the town does, and will need to function,” wrote Krepinevich in a letter to the editor last week.

However, voters had their doubts.

Beacon Falls resident Ronald Bray said the asphalt equipment was very expensive and was worried that other towns wouldn’t rent it and it would sit unused for much of the year.

He suggested letting another town buy it and renting it from them so that Beacon Falls wouldn’t have to pay for its maintenance.
Robert Villano, Bray’s neighbor, agreed.

“It’s not really the appropriate time to be spending money,” he said.

He suggested the town should raise taxes slightly each year and save up the money to purchase the equipment.

“That’s the way I do everything,” he said.

Villano said part of the reason for the financial crisis is that people buy things they can’t afford.

Bray, however, said the bond package was really a Catch 22.

“If we don’t pay for it now, we’ll pay for it later,” he said.

Voters gave their OK to two other smaller ticket items.

In a 317 to 197 vote, Beacon Falls residents authorized a bond for $125,000 for various fuel and heating oil storage facility improvements. The town will use the funds to build above ground fuel tanks. The firehouse has been cited by the state Department of Environmental Protection for its current underground tanks.

Voters also approved $1 million for mandated wastewater treatment plant improvements, 358 to 157.

At the polls, Beacon Falls resident Susan Agamy said she supported the bonds because even though it’s a difficult economy, the items on the ballot are necessary.

“We do need to invest in our infrastructure,” Agamy said.

She said she trusted the town to seek grants to limit the amount of debt the town incurs.

Just because the voters have given the town permission to spend the money doesn’t mean they will, according to First Selectman Susan Cable. She said they would continue to seek grants to help offset the costs.

As an example, Cable cited the Depot St. Bridge project. Voters authorized a $3.5 million bond, but after receiving grants, the final cost was much less, Cable said.

The Beacon Hose Co No. 1 recently received a $168,716 grant for breathing apparatus and personal protective equipment, an item previously planned to be included in the bond package.

Even with the grant, the town will have to kick in some money for the new equipment. The original bond package asked for $230,000 for air breathing apparatus, leaving about $60,000 to cover after the grant.

The fire company still needs a new ambulance, $185,000, pumper truck, $298,000, and fire truck, $897,000, items they had hoped to include in the bond package, but were nixed by the Board of Finance.

There were several other items discussed for the bond package which the Board of Finance also chose not to include — a pay loader for $150,000 and nearly $2 million for various upgrades and maintenance at Matthies Park.