Next in Shelton: Setting road paving priorities

Now that Shelton voters have approved bonding $5 million for road paving and related improvements, Mayor Mark Lauretti said priorities will be set on what streets should be enhanced first.

Lauretti said he and Public Works Director Paul DiMauro determine what roads need the most immediate attention, with input from evaluations completed by City Engineer Robert F. Kulacz.

The mayor said setting priorities can be difficult because road conditions always are evolving and people have differing opinions.

Priorities could be set and then there might be a collapsed drainage situation or severe weather damage, he said. “All of a sudden another road is a target,” he said.

Plus, Lauretti said, “there are always roads that people think are worse.”

'In the road business'

The city does some of the paving and related preparation road work in-house and uses outside contractors for other work.

Lauretti said the city is buying certain equipment so it can do more of the work itself. He thinks this is a wise use of municipal funds.

“We’ve been spending money on [equipment] so we’re making progress,” he said. “We need to make that investment because we’ll always be in the road business.”

Won with 82% of the vote

On Election Day, Shelton voters overwhelmingly approved the referendum question to have the city borrow $5 million to pay for road paving and related improvements.

The local ballot question was approved by 82% of voters. It’s the fourth time a referendum to borrow money for paving has been approved by Shelton voters in recent years.

Lauretti said the city needs to focus on the roads after concentrating more on open space, schools and other infrastructure during the past few decades. “Now the roads need our attention,” Lauretti said.

Borrowing to pave is 'prudent'

Lauretti defended going to the bond market to pay for most municipal road work rather than using money from the operating budget or the city’s fund balance (rainy-day fund).

Bonding is “the prudent thing to do,” he said, because relying too much on the operating budget could negatively affect the mill rate. He also noted the historically low interest rates now available.

Lauretti said the impact on the city’s financial well-being is minimal if the city is retiring debt as it pursues new borrowing. He also stressed that the city of Shelton uses 10-year and five-year bonds, not the 20-year bonds favored by many cities and towns.

“We’re one of the few [municipalities] that does it that way,” he said, noting that shorter-term bonds lowers the cost of borrowing for the city.