Voters face nearly $11 million in projects

Residents won’t be casting votes only for state and federal office on Nov. 6. Nearly $11 million in city projects and revisions to the city’s charter will go before voters as five ballot referendum questions.

Mayor Mark Lauretti encouraged voters to support all five referendums, which include bonding money for a new animal shelter, $5 million for roadwork, new fire apparatus, and Canal Street reconstruction.

“I would not be supporting all these referendums if I didn’t think we could afford it,” Lauretti told the Herald last week. “We’ve invested in schools, wastewater treatment plant, open space in the past, and we still have the lowest mill rate around.”

Question 1

“Shall the Charter of the City of Shelton be revised in accordance with the report and recommendations of the Charter Revision Commission?”

By state law, a municipality must review its charter every 10 years.

Many of changes are small grammatical changes, but there are a few larger changes.

One of the more substantive changes is to the terms of elected Planning and Zoning Commissioners. The change says “[members] to serve for staggered terms of four years with the terms of three members expiring at each general city election. In November 2013, three members shall be elected for a term of two years and three members elected for a term of four years.”

A copy of the charter with proposed changes is available here. Click on "Charter documents" in order to download “Charter 2012 strike through copy."

“The charter is part and parcel to our success,” Lauretti said. “It takes the gray out of things and creates black and white. Gray is the mainstay for attorneys. It’s important to have a document that is very clear.

Question 2

“Shall the $5 million appropriation and bond authorization for the reconstruction and resurfacing of roads in the City of Shelton, be approved?”

“We need more,” Lauretti said of the roadwork referendum. “Public roads in any community are an issue. This is another step along the way to manage the roads without any impact to the mill rate.”

Lauretti said the city has spent about $6 million on roads in the last six years but with 205 miles of roads there is still a lot more work to do.

He did not have an estimate of how many miles the city will be able to do if the referendum passes.

“The cost is a moving target,” he said. “Some roads need a total reconstruction and some don’t.”

Question 3

“Shall the $1 million appropriation and bond authorization for the reconstruction of Canal Street in the City of Shelton, be approved?”

The $1 million for work would go toward acquisition of easements and full-depth reconstruction, according to the Shelton Economic Development Corp.

Officials have said the reconstruction is an important part of downtown revitalization. Construction of Avalon Bay’s 250-unit complex is under way, The Birmingham was finished a few years ago, and other development proposals, both commercial and residential, are in the works for Canal Street.

“Canal Street is the easiest one because of the return on the investment,” Lauretti said.

The mayor compared it to the city building Commerce Drive and then benefiting from the taxes of development there.

“This is a chip shot,” he said of Canal Street. “It would be an awful shame for this not to pass — this is good sound economics.

Lauretti said it would be illegal for a developer to pay to repair the road, since it’s a public street.

Question 4

“Shall the $1.4 million appropriation and bond authorization for the construction of an animal shelter in the City of Shelton, be approved?”

The proposed shelter is 6,000 square feet on the corner of Brewster Lane and Riverdale Avenue. The shelter would include enclosed kennels for dogs, a cat room, an adoption area, and a room for public education on pet issues.

The current shelter, nearby on Riverdale Avenue, has failed state inspections several times and needs to be replaced, officials said.

“Considering we haven’t done anything with the shelter in 35 years, I’d say we got our money’s worth,” Lauretti said. “It’s the right thing for the city to do.”

Question 5

“Shall the $3.5 million appropriation and bond authorization for the acquisition of fire apparatus for the City of Shelton, be approved?”

If voters approve bonding the $3.5 million, the department will replace six vehicles with four new emergency vehicles, one to each of the four fire companies. Echo Hose Hook and Ladder would get a rescue truck with pumping capabilities, Pine Rock Park and White Hills would each get an engine that is part ladder truck and pumper, and the Huntington Fire Co. would get a rescue truck. “The most important factors are dependability, reliability and safety,” fire Chief Fran Jones said last month or replacement.

The department, which has 267 volunteer members, is seeing an increase in calls, according to Jones, who said they responded to 1,300 calls last year.

“We haven’t purchased any [new fire apparatus] in 10 years,” Lauretti said. “It’s time.”