Ansonia Aldermen Sept. 3 sent $5,120,000 worth of capital improvement projects to the November election ballot for voter approval.
About 20 people showed for a public hearing and special Aldermen’s meeting on the referendum, which has been on the drawing board — in some form or another — for months.
A referendum on the projects was initially envisioned for this summer but the date was scrapped as a public hearing on the borrowing was about to begin.
The process was then “slowed down” so the Aldermen could scrutinize the projects more.
If the full $5.1 million was dumped to the city’s budget today, the tax rate would go up 5.78 mills, or 14.7 percent.
But that’s not going to happen, because old debt is being paid off and coming off the budget, to be replaced by the new debt, payments on which will be spread out over years.
So, Aldermen and other city officials are touting the fact the borrowing will actually have no impact on the mill rate.
“The cost of the new referendum bonding, if passed, would come from the reduction of existing debt service payments for schools, fire trucks, ambulances and plows,” Rich Bshara, the city’s assistant comptroller, said in an e-mail. “These existing bond and lease payments will be coming to a conclusion soon and payments being made on ‘old debt’ will be used to fund the ‘new debt.’”
The current budget contains about $300,000 — representing about 0.347 mills — in a debt service account that would be used to pay for the new bonding if the projects are approved by voters in November, he said.
Aldermen struck a bipartisan tone when approving the bonding Sept. 3 — Republicans and Democrats alike endorsed unanimously the projects going to the ballot for voters’ approval.
“We’re doing a good thing with this bond,” said Republican Alderman Charles Stowe. “This bond is not going to increase anybody’s taxes . . . I believe this is the right thing to do. It’s going to enhance the city and it’s going to save the taxpayers from having to pay for this.”
But the night wasn’t without political back-and-forth, between the two party-endorsed candidates for mayor in this November’s election.
Republican mayoral candidate David Cassetti was the first to speak during the public hearing on the referendum, and said he was “a little concerned” over the $728,000 proposed for improvements to the police station.
“Look for a new place,” he said. “To pump this kind of money in there and have the taxpayers foot the bill on an antiquated building is ridiculous.”
Aldermanic President Eugene Sharkey, a Democrati, said work on the building is needed, even if the police station is moved in the future.
Cassetti said he had brought up other problems with the property to Mayor James Della Volpe several times and gotten “lip service” in reply, and that the city should instead build a new police headquarters elsewhere.
‘You Shouldn’t Be Taking Shots’
At that point Della Volpe interjected.
“Where would you propose to put it, Dave?” he asked Cassetti.
The field across the street from the Boys & Girls Club on Howard Avenue, Cassetti replied.
“You were for it, unless you were just giving me lip service, I don’t know,” Cassetti said.
“You shouldn’t be taking shots,” Della Volpe told Cassetti as Sharkey tried to interrupt.
“I specifically talked to the mayor on several occasions about this,” Cassetti said.
“Right, and I asked you to get the facts and figures for me,” Della Volpe said. “And you never did.”
Click the play button below to listen to the exchange (And for full recordings of the entire meeting, scroll to the bottom of the story).
Cassetti then said the city was opening itself up to a lawsuit over a $400,000 component of the referendum that would provide for the demolition of the old Peck School on Holbrook Street.
That’s because, he said, the city was obligated to offer the property to the second-ranking bidder from when it was sold years ago.
That bidder? Cassetti’s company.
But he said he wouldn’t sue the city.
“I’m not going to sue, I want to run it,” he said, adding that the building should be preserved for future use.
Sharkey replied by saying the structure is infested with rats and other vermin.
Corporation Counsel Kevin Blake chimed in to say that the city has “commenced action” to recover the property through a tax foreclosure.
Sharkey said if that’s successful, it would make sense to have the money for demolishing the building on hand.
The projects will be separated into six yes-or-no questions that will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot.
The first ballot question will ask voters to approve of $1,225,000 in energy conservation improvements.
That breaks down as:
- $66,000 HVAC Ansonia Rescue and Medical Services
- $728,000 Police Station — $455,000 for HVAC and a new boiler, $78,000 to replace windows, $125,000 for sprinklers and new fire alarm, and $70,000 for a new generator.
- $112,975 Library — $75,000 for HVAC and a water heater, and $37,975 for windows.
- $290,000 To replace roofs at City Hall, Eagle Hose Fire, Ansonia Rescue and Medical Services, and the Armory
- $28,025 Debt administration
The second ballot question asks voters to approve $765,000 for public safety improvements.
Of the total, $525,000 is earmarked for “school security,” $220,000 is for buying land on Platt Street with a view to expanding the police station, and $20,000 is for debt administration costs.
The referendum will ask voters to endorse $1,285,000 in property improvements throughout the city.
Those costs are:
- $430,000 Nature Center — $245,000 for a redesigned parking lot, and $185,000 to dredge Redwing Pond
- $324,000 Nolan Field Athletic Complex — $110,000 for the fieldhouse, $189,000 for parking lots, and $25,000 for a new scoreboard.
- $200,000 Riverwalk expansion
- $300,000 Armory elevator installation to make the building ADA-compliant
- $31,000 Debt administation
The city also wants to make $1,020,000 in “environmental capital improvements.”
- $400,000 Peck School Demolition
- $325,000 Vacuum truck for WPCA and DPW
- $255,000 Transfer station
- $15,000 Underground storage tank removal at the police station, armory, and library.
- $25,000 Debt administration
Roads and Parking
The bond resolution calls for $495,000 in road and parking improvements.
Of the total, $133,000 is earmarked for work on Woodbridge Avenue Extension, Beech Street, and the driveway of the Hilltop Hose fire company.
The resolution also includes $350,000 for the West Main Street parking lot, and $12,000 in debt administration costs.
Olson Drive Land Purchase
The referendum’s last question asks voters to approve a total of $330,000 for the purchase of land on Olson Drive.
Of the total, $320,000 represents the actual “acquisition expense,” and there are $10,000 in debt administration costs.
Audio of the public hearing is posted below, followed by audio of the special Aldermen’s meeting at which the bond questions were approved for the Nov. 5 election ballot. The text of the bond resolution is also posted.