Friday, December 10, 2010

Special Town Meeting
Road Improvement Work – Increase in Inland Wetlands
and Watercourse Commission Application Fees
November 4, 2010

First Selectwoman Derrylyn Gorski called the Special Town Meeting to order at 7:35
p. m. There were approximately 100 in attendance. Everyone was asked to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

The First Selectwoman called for nominations from the floor for a Moderator. There was a motion by Jon Painter, duly seconded by Steven Thornquist to nominate Bill Blake. There were no further nominations.

Moderator Blake asked First Selectwoman Derrylyn Gorski to speak on the first resolution – to appropriate $2,085,000 for road maintenance.

First Selectwoman Gorski thanked everyone for coming. She introduced the Selectmen and members of the Board of Finance that were present, as well as guests – Christopher Martin, financial advisor, Webster Bank and Steve Dudley, engineer, South Central Regional Council of Governments who both helped with the project.

First Selectwoman Gorski spoke about the need to catch up on road maintenance. She stated that we have a real problem with the roads that need to be kept up without draining the budget. We do not have the resources that we have had in the past. Revenues are down. Costs are up. Asphalt in 2000 was $42 a ton; in 2010 the cost is $60 a ton – a 42% increase. We need to do the work without making a large impact on our budget. The major road work will be done over the next three years, possibly four and pay for it over the next seven years. We will be taking advantage of very low interest rates and taking care of it without impacting the tax payer. We are using “Ice Be Gone” in the winter which is friendly to the roads with better traction. There is a 70% reduction in corrosion to roads and equipment. It is the only deicer in the country that has an EPA designation that is safe for water and animals, as well as approval by the Regional Water Authority. A crack and chip seal program has been started on an annual basis to avert the need for this level of road maintenance in the future. The town crew has done the road drainage work which is a huge savings to the town. The Wooding Hill Road project saved the town $200,000.

Highway Foreman Alan Green showed a spreadsheet of the roads that will be done by June 2011, 2012 and 2013. The roads were picked because of the amount of traffic and the age of the roads – all have passed their usefulness. Listed are the roads that will be chip sealed (see attached). Schaffer Road will be a huge project – trees will need to be removed and the road widened. Chip sealing of roads will be done, as well and repeated in five years to continue to preserve them. Thirty years is the average life of a road.

First Selectwoman Gorski stated that we are members of the South Central Regional Council of Governments. We have asked for assistance in reviewing the plans for the roads. Steve Dudley will be working with the town on this project.

Steven Dudley, professional engineer and land surveyor, SCRCOG commented that the town is going about the project in the most cost effective manner. The town crew is doing much more work than has been seen in many other municipalities and they are to be commended for saving everyone a lot of money. If highways are not maintained you have very bad and unsafe conditions. The chip sealing procedure seals the top of the road and keeps water out. SCRCOG gets planning money from the Federal Government and the State of Connecticut, matched by ten per cent local dues that are available for programming of a consultant. First Selectwoman Gorski has requested a study be done of the existing conditions of the town roads. We will give a rating and an intelligent program of how to go forward and the reasons why.

Board of Finance Chairman Janice Brunwin spoke about how the roads will be paid for. The goal is to make the roads last for thirty years. With our current practice it would take seven years to complete this project. We need to do it without spending more than we have in the current budget. This year the road budget was increased from $50,000 to $100,000. If the fifteen roads were to be done as quickly as possible it would cost $700,000. It would be a 2.5 per cent increase in the mil rate or approximately $160 per household. We did not feel that using the rainy day balance would be prudent. That money needs to be available for an emergency. The Board of Finance policy is to maintain that fund between ten and twelve per cent. It helps maintain our good bond rating and provides the money in case of disaster. We discussed this with our financial advisor from Webster Bank, Chris Martin who gave us options – one is short term notes. The current interest rate is between .5 and 1 percent. However, they only last a year. You borrow as you need it but the interest rate is variable. We could borrow up front and get a fixed rate. If we go for bonding we would need updates on our bonding rate or we could do a combination – borrow while the rates are low at .7 to 1 per cent and then lock in when we see rates are starting to go up. It would be paid over the next seven years. No more than the $300,000 would come out of our current budget.

First Selectwoman Gorski stated that economically it is a bad time but a good time to borrow. She opened the floor to questions.

Russell von Beren, 134 Wooding Hill Rd – Why is Wooding Hill Road included in the money we would be spending? First Selectwoman Gorski stated that Wooding Hill Road is not included in the fifteen roads. If the resolution does not pass, then Wooding Hill Road is all that would be done. von Beren stated that the word equipment should be deleted from the first paragraph.

Brian Laubstein, 21 Toll Gate Rd – If the road crew is helping with drainage how are they also doing chip sealing? Foreman Green stated that the road crew does not do the chip sealing. A full crew comes in. They apply the oil and the stone. We may transport some of the stone to the applicator. It is only two or three days of work.

Aileen Magda, 28 Deerfield La – What is the total cost? 2.1 million? Wouldn’t it depend on the actual costs? Chris Martin stated that it is difficult to say for a given year in regard to what the interest rates will be. Using notes, the town might never need to borrow more than 2.1 million dollars. The intent of the bonds is to afford the town as much flexibility as possible. The intent is not to go out and buy a large piece of equipment.

Richard Kaletsy, 123 Cheshire Rd – I think Russ has a very good point about equipment. There should be simple language. It is a valid point.

Chip Spear, 21 Dayton Rd – Bd. of Finance member – Equipment can be interpreted in many ways. This gives the flexibility needed. Equipment can refer to a broken shovel.

Jaime Stirling, 20 Miller Rd – Regional Bd. of Ed. member – How do our roads compare to towns of similar size? Mr. Dudley stated that each town has their own unique financial situation. If you’re spending millions a year on roads rather than $50,000 - $100,000 you’re in a better position. Your roads are in reasonable condition. Most municipalities would like to have more money but the resources are not there.

Randy Raddatz, 22 Bethridge Rd – 14 roads over 3 years paid for over seven. Does that mean in years four through seven there are no other roads done? Janice Brunwin -This is the list of roads that really need to be done. After year three, there shouldn’t be any other roads that will need major repairs. Al Green – After the four years and the fifteen roads are done and the notes have gone down, there will still be other roads that need to be regenerated. They are roads that will not cost $300,000. We will continue to do roads - it is not going to end in four years.

R. Raddatz - Bethridge Road is over thirty-five years old. Over the past five years it heaves and the water goes under the road. Would you say that is a bad condition? Dudley said of course it is not a good condition. Each municipality has a limited amount of resources and they need to structure the work accordingly.

Brian Eitzer, 11 Carriage Dr – The $25,000 for the study. Shouldn’t it be addressing where we need to go after the first project is complete? Yes.

Dick Van Horn, 86 Crestwood Rd – Realistically you will need more than $300,000 for the roads.

Sharon Huxley, Planning & Zoning Chairman - 340 Old Mill Rd – At our Annual Town Meeting in May the people said we want a comprehensive plan to address our town roads. Is this sufficient in terms of a plan? Mr. Dudley stated that the $25,000 study would give you what you need to repair the roads. There is never enough when it comes to taking care of roads.

B. Laubstein - Was there an agreement at the Bd. of Finance meeting that there would be no major money for roadwork? J. Brunwin said it is structured so we will not spend more than $300,000 per year for road work. It will only be used for roads. Laubstein stated he did not want to be here again in four years to do major road work. Foreman Green stated not to this magnitude. Most of the other roads will be short roads – not $300,000 projects.

Patricia Winer, 7 Carrington Rd – Planning & Zoning Commission – Are there any roads besides Schaffer Road that will need extensive tree trimming? Green - No. We will use whatever curbing is needed to control the rainfall.

George McDonnell, 5 Rowe Ct – What happens when the snow plow knocks the curbing out? Green -It comes from the road fund.

Richard Barnes, 534 Bethmour Rd – The engineering on Bethmour Road was not done properly. Will that continue on down? Will the stone go down to Luke Hill Rd? Green –yes.

David Foreman, Tax Collector - Downs Rd – Will the major road repair include guardrails? It is dangerous in some areas where there are no guard rails. Green – no. Open culverts need to be covered. I agree with you but that is another project.

Forman - Bond notes are renewed from time to time. Do the rates go up and down? C. Martin -The rate holds for that period of time -generally 9 -12 months.

Stuart Morgenstern, 17 Old Fairwood Rd – It looks from the Annual Report that we have about seven million dollars in debt right now. With this road project it will bring us up to nine million dollars in outstanding debt. How will this affect our ratings and ability to fund in the future? C. Martin said that a profile was done giving the town an AA2 – a high rating with a fairly moderate rate of debt.

R. von Beren – Wooding Hill Road is great now. You will have to borrow $572,000 between now and next June. Janet Brunwin stated that the plan is to borrow only when we need the money and take down the $300,000. We did chip sealing in Bethany for five or six years. It did not work in Bethany. Maybe the stone or the emulsion was different.

Jaime Stirling, – I have heard at the last two meetings that if we don’t fix the roads now it will cost more in the future. I think the proposal we have before us allows us to take advantage and take care of these roads so they don’t cost us more in the future. I have faith in our current Board of Finance and in our town crew. I believe it is in the best interest of the town to go ahead with this project.

Lucy Painter, 40 No. Humiston Dr - made a motion to call the question, duly seconded. Unanimous.

Moderator Blake called for a vote to consider the motion for the two-page resolution to adopt the appropriation of $2,085,000 for costs in connection with the road improvements. The vote taken was unanimous yeas. Passed.

Moderator Blake stated that the second item of business concerns an amendment to the fee schedule for the Inland Wetlands and Watercourse Commission.

Sandy Breslin, Vice-chairman - IWC – 91 Sperry Rd –the IWC three or four years ago looked at overhauling its regulations. There have been many changes to state statute and court cases that are changing the way that wetland commissions do business and we needed to update our regulations to go along with these changes. The fee schedule has not been raised since 2001. This will shift the burden of cost from the tax payers to the town so that we are sharing the costs more equally with the applicant.

Kris Sullivan, IWC member - 783 Amity Rd – we want to make sure that an expert is representing the applicant. With the fee structure, we get paid to hire our own consultant. We can choose the consultant and then they review the material and consult with the applicant. The agency then gets to choose what they need to pay attention to. If we go to court, the judge wants to know that you have an expert opinion. We want to take this cost away from the townspeople and put it on the applicant. The fee can be waived or reduced for extenuating circumstances. Most important is to have expert information. Kris encouraged the town people to support the IWC by adopting the fee amendment to the Land Use Related Applications in the town ordinance.

There were no further questions on the amendment.

Moderator Blake called for a motion to waive the reading of the resolution. There was a motion, duly seconded to waive the reading.

A motion was made and duly seconded to call the resolution to increase the Inland Wetlands and Watercourse Commission fees. Overwhelming yeas. Passed.

There were no further questions. The meeting was adjourned at 9:10 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Nancy A. McCarthy, CMC
Town Clerk