Referendum set on road improvements

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A referendum will be held Sept. 29 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Laurel Ledge School on whether the town should bond up to $10 million for a 10-year road improvement plan.

BEACON FALLS — After years of cutting back on road repairs due to tight budgets, town officials are asking residents to approve a 10-year plan to fix a host of roads in disarray throughout town.

Voters will get their say on the plan at a referendum Sept. 29 in which they will be asked whether to give town officials the authority to bond $10 million for a 10-year road improvement program. The referendum will be held from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Laurel Ledge Elementary School.

The plan was at the center of discussions Thursday night during a special town meeting. The program breaks down more than 20 roads by priority to be fixed in this fiscal year, fiscal years 2011-2015, and fiscal years 2016-2020 and includes road and infrastructure improvements such as replacing sewers. The program currently totals about $8.6 million, however the town is seeking permission to bond $10 million to remain flexible and possibly repair more roads that the ones listed in the program.

Throughout Thursday night’s meeting, First Selectman Susan Cable emphasized that although the town is asking for the authority to bond $10 million that doesn’t mean it will spend the whole amount.

“It doesn’t mean you’re going out to spend the $10 million right away,” Cable said.

Cable said the town will search for other ways, like grants, to offset the cost of the repairs.

The town has already secured one such grant to pay for repairs to one of the worst roads in town.

Blackberry Hill Road, which was damaged during heavy rains and Tropical Storm Irene this summer, is listed as one of the roads to be fixed this fiscal year. However, Beacon Falls has a Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant to help pay for the majority of work on the road.

Exactly how the program would impact taxes is difficult to pinpoint due to the fluidity of the program. Cable explained that in the worst-case scenario, which assumes the town bonds the whole $10 million, the town’s net Grand List remains the same over 20 years, and using the interest rates as of Sept. 6, the plan could possibly equate to 1.53 mills.

However, Cable said the town never felt that kind of impact from past projects that had similar figures.

The town has had a road improvement plan in place since 1999. However, Cable said the plan’s been “nickeled and dimed” over the years due to budget reductions. She said the proposed plan is the town’s way of saying enough is enough and is an effective way to repair roads.

This is the second time this year town officials are asking residents to approve a plan to repair roads.

In March, voters rejected a $5.1 million plan to reconstruct several town roads and possibly to buy equipment that would repave roads with recycled asphalt. Following the March referendum, town officials pointed, in part, to a controversy over buying the equipment as to why the referendum failed.

The current proposal doesn’t include purchasing the equipment. Cable assured those at the meeting that the money will only be used for road and infrastructure improvements.

When asked what the town would do if the plan failed at referendum, Cable responded, “We have to go back to the drawing board.”

Roads scheduled for repair under the improvement program, include Dolly Drive, Highland Avenue, Patricia Terrace and Wolfe Avenue I this fiscal year.

Avenues B, C, D, E;, Beacon Valley, Burton and West roads (all three partial); Noe Place; and North and South circles would be fixed in fiscal years 2011-15.

Buckingham Drive, Fairfield Place, Feldspar Avenue, Edwards Lane, Molleur View Drive, Old Sawmill Drive and Starwood Lane would be addressed between 2016 and 2020.