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Selectmen Approve $19.6 Million in Capital Projects for November Referendum

Board approves three questions for four projects.

The Board of Selectmen Thursday evening voted to send $19.6 Million in proposed bonding to an Election Day referendum but approved three ballot questions for the four projects.

They include $6 Million for pavement management (roads), $3.2 Million for partial roof replacement at the Community Center and all four schools, $6.75 for a highway garage and related land acquisition and site work and $3.6 Million for a high school track and field project and parking lot reconstruction.

With partial reimbursement for the school roofs, the town would essentially have an impact of $18.7 Million but must approve the full bond amount, officials said. 

While debate has surrounded whether to forward the proposals as one or separate referendum questions, the town’s bond attorney recently advised that unrelated projects should not be combined.

However, First Selectman Richard Barlow said Wednesday that he called and was advised the town could consider the garage and roadwork as a “nexus” or projects that could be grouped.

Barlow said he felt they were closely connected and that the town crew overseeing much of the roadwork and doing some of the work they should have an adequate facility and better working conditions that would help them maintain equipment and the roads in addition to their other tasks. He called doing the roads and not building a garage to replace the town’s aging facility near the Farmington River “irresponsible.”

The idea did not sit well with selectman Lowell Humphrey, who said voters should decide each project on its own merit.

“I think its incumbent on us to let them decide,” Lowell said.

Other selectmen said the garage is a tough sell and feel that some people don’t realize the needs or even understand that the now $6,75 Million price tag includes land acquisition and extensive site work.

Selectman David Gilchrist said he understood Humphrey’s position but had another outlook.

“By the same token we have a responsibility as the Board of Selectmen to maintain and improve the facilities of the town,” Gilchrist said. “If bundling helps get it done I would support it.”

Humphrey countered that the idea could backfire and result in neither getting passed.

“Bundling could be viewed as attempt kidnap the voter’s vote,” he said.

Selectman Steve Roberto agreed with Gilchrist.

“My concern is the town garage not glamorous,” he said.

People have continually pointed at the Barkhamsted garage as being much less expensive that the Canton proposal, he said. While town officials say the land site work, few miles of roads in that town and other projects make that a different project, Roberto expressed frustration at some of the comments by Board of Finance members the previous night. He said the town received its latest “design-build” estimate from Borghesi Building and Engineering, the firm that built the Barkhamsted facility. 

“That still wasn’t good enough,” he said.

Selectman Tom Sevigny said he had a different view of moving the garage before he was elected but now feels it a top priority.

Humphrey voted against the roads and garage resolution but said it was because they were combined.

There was considerably less discussion on the three other projects.

Roberto voted against the track and field question.

Chief Administrative Officer Robert Skinner also gave selectmen an estimate on the tax impact of future budgets with the bonding proposals – accounting for the roofs reimbursement. He cautioned that the estimates included not just paying down the debt but also annual budgets with a projected 2-percent increase for the Board of Selectmen and 2.5 percent for the Board of Education. The numbers also assumes a 0.6 percent annual growth in the grand list and a 99-percent tax-collection rate. In addition, the numbers include some deferment of current debt refinancing savings to help lower the impact during the first couple years of bond payments.

Under the scenario the average yearly mill rate increase would be 1.88 percent from 2013 to 2026, though each year varies and the fiscal years 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 would be more than 3 percent.

For a home with a market value of $361,429 and an assessed value of $253,000 that would mean a $94 increase in taxes in 2013-2014 and $253 in 2014-2015. Under the projections that homeowner that owes $6,684 in taxes for 2012-2013 would pay $8,630 in 2025-2026.

A town meeting has been set for Oct 24 at 7 p.m. high school auditorium. It will adjourn to the Nov. 6 election where residents can vote on the ballot questions.

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