Roads referendum fails by the slimmest margin

Rose Hennessey, right, checks in Nadine Drmic, left, to vote for the Beacon Falls road referendum at Laurel Ledge Elementary School Thursday.

BEACON FALLS — One vote. That was all it took to shut down yet another attempt to fix the town’s deteriorating roads.

Beacon Falls voters rejected a $10 million bond package by a margin of 201-200 at referendum Thursday. The plan would have repaired 23 roads over the next 10 years.

Since the vote was so close, there will be a recount Tuesday, according to First Selectman Susan Cable.

Cable called the defeat very disappointing news.

“This would have gotten the most accomplished with the least impact on taxpayers,” she said.

Cable said the town has been trying to put together an organized schedule for road repairs since 1999, but they always get voted down.

She said the town has continually maintained the roads, but years of chip sealing and doing a few roads at a time with grants isn’t cutting it anymore.

“With rough winters and the hurricane, we’re starting to see a lot of deterioration,” Cable said. “The grants are far and few between right now.”

Cable said she got a bunch of calls Friday morning saying people forgot to vote.

“Every vote counts and only 400 voted,” Cable said. “I’m not sure how else we can get the word out.”

Cable apologized to the town’s Jewish voters that the referendum was on Rosh Hashanah, a Jewish holiday.

Joshua Kozodoy, left, and Joe Dowdell leave Laurel Ledge Elementary School after voting yes in the Beacon Falls road referendum Thursday. 'The roads in this town are in desperate need of being repaired. We can't wait any longer,' Dowdell said.

Joshua Kozodoy, left, and Joe Dowdell leave Laurel Ledge Elementary School after voting yes in the Beacon Falls road referendum Thursday. 'The roads in this town are in desperate need of being repaired. We can't wait any longer,' Dowdell said.

Cable said she would bring the roads issue back to the Board of Selectman and Board of Finance to determine the town’s next step.

She also asked residents to call with their own ideas and questions about town roads.

“I would like people to tell us what they think we might do. If people didn’t realize there was a vote, I’d like to know that,” Cable said.

Cable can be reached at her office in Town Hall at (203) 729-4340.

Cable she said she knows the economy is difficult right now. But, she added, Beacon Falls really needs to improve its infrastructure.

“I thought the need was really strong enough to bring it forth to the people. … The more we put this off though, the more expensive it’s going to get,” Cable said.

This rejection follows another road referendum defeat in March, when voters rejected a $5.1 million package to fix roads in the near-term.

Officials partially blamed that defeat on the inclusion of possibly purchasing asphalt recycling equipment as a way to save money on repairs. Many people were unsure about the equipment, which is new to New England.

At least one voter who voted against the referendum in March because of the equipment voted positively Tuesday.

Andrea Ruhl said she would like to see Beacon Falls’ roads fixed, but did not vote for the package that included the asphalt recycling equipment because there was no history behind it.

Others voted no because they were afraid the $10 million figure would not be enough to repair all the roads on the list.
“It just doesn’t seem like they really thought this out,” James McCoy said.

The estimated cost for the planned repairs was $8.3 million, but officials asked for $10 million to account for unforeseen increases in cost. That amount includes costs for engineering, inspections, and permits.

McCoy said the road he lives on, Beacon Street, is down to dirt. His road was not on the list for repairs.

“I think they need to make a specific plan and get better estimates,” he said.

Ernie Canetti also voted no because he felt there were too many questions and not enough answers about where the money would go and what streets would be repaired.

“There’s nothing defined,” he said.

Those who voted positively in the referendum said Beacon Falls sorely needs the improvements.

“I think infrastructure is a critical part of the community and right now, it’s in pretty bad shape. I see it as an investment in the town,” said Josh Carey.

Nadine Drmic said she voted yes because she’s tired of hitting potholes on Main Street and throughout town.

Several voters said the improvements can’t wait.

“They only get worse if you don’t repair them,” said Bill Fredericks.

Peter Betkoski felt now is a good time to borrow money because of low interest rates.

The roads on the list for repairs included, Dolly Drive, Highland Avenue, Maple Street, Patricia Terrace, and Wolfe Avenue for repairs starting this year.

In the next five years, Avenues B, C, D, and E, Noe Place, North Circle, and South Circle were scheduled for repairs as well as parts of Beacon Valley Road, Burton Road, and West road.

Buckingham Drive, Fairfield Place, Feldspar Avenue, Edwards Lane, Molleur View Drive, Old Sawmill Drive, and Starwood Lane were on the list to be repaired by 2020.