Nearly $11 million in city proposals will go to referendum

Come Election Day, voters will be asked to vote yea or nay on authorizing the city to borrow about $11 million for road work, fire apparatus, a new animal shelter and Canal Street reconstruction.

Each project will appear as its own referendum question on the November ballot. The Board of Aldermen approved the four referendum questions at its regular meeting last Thursday.

The requests include bonding $5 million for reconstruction and resurfacing of roads, $1 million for reconstruction of Canal Street, $1.4 million for construction of an animal shelter and $3.5 million for Fire Department apparatus.

Mayor Mark Lauretti said borrowing money for road work was particularly important.

“We can’t spend enough on the roads,” he said. “Sooner or later we have to do it.”

Aldermanic President John Anglace suggested lowering the $5-million request to $3 million but the mayor and other board members thought $5 million was a good number for the amount of work that needs to be done over the next few years.

“We get calls all the time about roads and potholes,” Ward 4 Alderman John Papa said.

“It’s long overdue,” Ward 2 Aldermen Stanley Kudej added.

Lauretti also added $1 million to this fiscal year’s budget for road work and the aldermen approved that request.

“We want voters to support this and I hope they do,” he said to the board. “When the time comes I hope we can all stand and defend it.”

Downtown projects

Borrowing $1 million for Canal Street reconstruction will support economic growth, according to the mayor.

“We’ve been at this project a number of years,” he said.

Phases of reconstruction have been underway with previous city funding and about $3 million in grants, according to the mayor. AvalonBay is in the process of building 250-unit apartment complex on Canal Street.

“Next year we need to do reconstruction because we have significant ongoing development,” Lauretti said. “After Avalon is complete there will be others, because those others are already at the table.”

The current 20 Riverdale Avenue city animal shelter is about 40 years old and failed state inspections last August for problems including structural issues.

A new, larger, facility is planned for a different location on Riverdale Avenue and preliminary plans have been drawn up by Bismark Construction. The Board of Aldermen will look at the plans at an upcoming meeting.

“It has served its useful purpose and it’s time to conform with modern standards,” Lauretti said of the current shelter.

Anglace agreed.

“This has been in the works for seven years,” he said. “I support this.”

Fire apparatus

The $3.5-million proposal for new fire apparatus would go toward funding the Fire Department’s six-year capital improvement plan. The plan includes four new fire vehicles and replacing old, outdated equipment.

Anglace commended fire department representatives on doing a great job presenting the needs of the department to the aldermen.

Lauretti, who has had a sometimes contentious relationship with members of the fire department, made a tongue-in-cheek comment about the proposal.

“The fire department stuff I’m a little leery about because it’s such a volatile topic,” Lauretti said, smiling.

Lauretti said each project was something the city needs to do, though it may seem like a lot at once. Should the proposals pass, Lauretti said the impact to the city budget and mill rate in the coming years would be minimal.

“I’m the guy that pays the price, one way or another,” he said.