If a bond resolution for capital projects is going to be on the November ballot, it will have to be approved by the City Council at its August 6 meeting.
By Jon Craig and Robin Jovanovich
If a bond resolution for capital projects is going to be on the November ballot, it will have to be approved by the City Council at its August 6 meeting. At the conclusion of the Council’s July 11 meeting, there was general agreement about the need for substantial repairs to streets and sidewalks all over town, the reconstruction of Smith Street, upgrades to Police Headquarters and City Court, intersection improvements at Smith and Elm Place, a traffic signal replacement and widened turning lane at Purchase/Theodore Fremd/Purdy, and rebuilding the sewer lines under the Locust Avenue Bridge.
MTA parking lot improvements will not be part of this bond, nor will flood mitigation.
The bond is changing shape as the Council continues to get additional information from City staff. City Planner Christian Miller reminded the Council there are currently $40 million in projects planned as part of the five-year capital improvement program. Miller said the key is agreeing on the right mix of projects to get a bond passed while meeting the City’s infrastructure and public safety priorities.
While all Council members have questioned this or that item, only one, Councilman Joe Sack, has questioned whether the City should borrow, not bond, for needed infrastructure repairs to roads, sidewalks, sewers, the court house and library.
“It’s possible the bond could fail,’’ Sack said. “I’m fearful now is not the right time for the public. And it might jeopardize future projects.”
In response to Councilman Sack, Mayor Doug French said, “We went to the Finance Committee. They said, ‘Go to a bond.’ This is part of a strategic plan to invest in our City. We can’t continue to kick the can down the road. And we need to make critical safety improvements.”
Councilman Peter Jovanovich added, “This is the new normal, not the recession. If we don’t borrow money now when the rates are the lowest ever,” we’ll have missed our best opportunity.
City Manager Scott Pickup said, “We have underfunded our capital projects for the past two years.” He emphasized, “The ultimate cost of not doing the work is managing to failure.”
As far as the $1.2 million in improvements to the police station/courthouse, Pickup said since the Council decided not to build a “new building, this is the next logical step. It gives us some breathing room with substantially better court functions and prisoner transfer.”
Councilman Jovanovich agreed this is a great compromise. The Rye Free Reading Room seeks $200,000 for installation of a fire sprinkler and alarm system, doors with ADA access, and security cameras. Councilwoman Catherine Parker questioned putting library improvements into a public safety bond. Councilman Jovanovich countered that 80% of the total amount is for sprinklers.
Without spending any money on flooding, the buildings, roads, intersection and other infrastructure improvements total between $4 and $5 million. A $4,000,000 bond would require interest and principal payments of approximately $400,000 a year beginning in 2014.
At the July meeting, resident Bob Zahm asked Council members for more details on proposed pedestrian safety projects, saying $100,000 may not be enough to cover needed improvements. “I would still want to see the pick list.’’
Councilwoman Parker agreed that more money will be needed for safety improvements. “We were all pretty much unanimous that $100,000 wouldn’t get us very far,” Parker said.
French said, “There’s some sentiment that $100,000 is too low. The roads are really bad in Rye.” Councilman Rich Filippi suggested using all the money proposed for the police station/courthouse for even more roadwork.