By Meghan Peterson, PhD.
Editor’s Note: All relevant Town documents can be found at www.haddam.org. Video of the August 6, 2019 Town hearing and meeting can be found at vsctv.com as well as Channel 19, Valley Shore Community Television.
On Tuesday, August 6, 2019, a crowd of about 120 townspeople attended a Town hearing and meeting at the Haddam Volunteer Fire Company Station #1 in Higganum. The standing room-only gathering of residents listened to various Town leaders and officials as presentations were made about one of the primary reasons for the hearing and subsequent vote: authorizing a bond ordinance to fund certain capital plan items and projects previously approved at the annual Town budget meeting on May 23, 2019. At that time, the issuance of bonds totaling $7,007,250 was approved by voters. Per the Haddam Town Charter, such issuance of bonds requires a vote by the townspeople to authorize a bond ordinance.
Board of Finance (BOF) Chair Joseph Centofanti offered a brief overview of the purpose for the bond ordinance: Haddam Public Hearing – Bonding Presentation 8-6-19. In basic terms, the bond ordinance is a legal mechanism by which Town capital projects and items are financed. In a municipal or town context, capital items involve long-term (5, 10, 15, 20+ year) items, projects, or plans such as Town vehicles and equipment, road work, and infrastructure. As some examples, Haddam Public Works dump truck acquisitions; Haddam Volunteer Fire Department radio system replacement project; Haddam Neck Volunteer Fire Department parking lot replacement project, Beaver Meadow Road culvert project; Dublin Hill Bridge renovation project; and the Route 154 sidewalk project are identified as capital items and projects, as they signify public safety equipment, infrastructure needs and/or long-term goals. Below, is a table supplying information about the capital projects/items, monetary amounts appropriated for them, anticipated grants, and anticipated bonding amounts:
Capital Projects Identified in Town’s 2019-2020 Capital Improvement Budget
|Capital Projects||Project Appropriation||Anticipated Grants||Bond Amount|
|Tylerville Sidewalk Project||$1,570,000||$1,250,000||$ 290,000|
|Dublin Hill Bridge Renovation Project||2,322,400||1,857,920||114,500|
|Candlewood Hill Road Reconstruction Project||3,138,600||2,938,600||200,000|
|Beaver Meadow Road – Culvert Project||670,000||335,000||335,000|
|Route 154 Sidewalk Project||470,750||400,000||70,750|
|Road Reconstruction Project||3,675,000||–||3,675,000|
|Haddam Volunteer Fire Department (“HVFD”) Station 2 Parking Lot Replacement Project||80,000||–||80,000|
|HVFD Hydraulic Rescue Extrication Tool Replacement Project||90,000||–||90,000|
|HVFD Radio System Replacement Project||800,000||–||800,000|
|HVFD Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus Replacement Project||180,000||–||180,000|
|Haddam Neck Volunteer Fire Department Parking Lot Replacement Project||50,000||–||50,000|
|Freightliner 1145D Single Axel Truck Acquisition||196,000||–||196,000|
|Freightliner 1145D Single Axel Truck Acquisition||195,000||–||195,000|
|Ford F550 All Season Dump Truck Acquisition||
|Freightliner 114SD Truck Acquisition||195,000||–||195,000|
|Freightliner 114SD Truck Acquisition||195,000||–||195,000|
|Ford F550 All Season Dump Truck Acquisition||109,000||–||109,000|
At various points throughout the Town hearing, First Selectwoman Lizz Milardo, Haddam Volunteer Fire Company Radio Engineer Scott Larson, Haddam Neck Fire Department Chief Bob McGarry (also running for First Selectman on the Republican ticket), Public Works Assistant Director Chris Corsa, and Town Counsel Mike Bothelo responded to questions from the public about the bond ordinance.
Discussion, involving at time rapid-fire respectful questions and answer exchanges between town officials and townspeople, lasted for more than hour. Once the hearing portion came to a close, the Town meeting was called to order. Harlan Fredericksen was nominated as moderator from the floor to preside over the Town meeting. During the discussion, questions centered on (but were not limited to): rationale behind bonding for 6 Public Works trucks in one fiscal year; cost of the HVFD radio replacement system; whether other priority items/projects important to the Town and community (for example, the library; social services) would be left out; and what would occur should the townspeople vote down the bond ordinance authorization. Town officials and department leaders spoke about the reality that the Town can no longer kick the can down the road as a mechanism to defer tax increases, as Haddam equipment, roads, and infrastructure are either very old, in disrepair, or functionally non-existent. Moreover, they emphasized that given Haddam’s triple A+ credit rating and low-interest rates, the time is now to take advantage of bonding in order to help finance items and projects vital for public safety and infrastructure.
Before it was put to a vote, a resident asked about acquisition of the 12-acre parcel from the Arnett family. Milardo and Haddam Town Planner Bill Warner explained that the Arnetts were donating the land to the Town in lieu of taxes, as the parcel is land-locked by surrounding Town land. Warner highlighted the benefit of open space for the Town. As part of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Open Space program, the land would be preserved and protected. The townspeople voted a resounding yes to acceptance of the 12 acres into Haddam’s open space program.
Next, before a vote was taken on the matter, discussion turned again to the bond ordinance. Several residents made additional inquiries which were promptly answered by Town counsel, BOF Chair Centofanti, and/or First Selectwoman Milardo.
Fredericksen asked Tony Giamei and Ed Schwing from the floor if they would like to be tellers for the vote. Giamei and Schwing agreed and counted the show of hands both for the Yeas as well as Nays.
The bond ordinance authorization passed: 82 to 37 votes.
Here is the link to watch this meeting online at http://www.vsctv.com.
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