Council approves $10 million referendum for roads

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The town council unanimously approved a bond ordinance of $10 million for improvements to roads and bridges over the next four years, sending the ordinance to referendum for voters to approve when they vote in the Nov. 3 election.

The bond ordinance was introduced at the last town council meeting, and sent to both the planning and zoning commission and the board of finance for review. Both boards unanimously approved it, and sent a favorable recommendation back to the town council for final approval.

“The hope is that this is approved by the public, and we will use a base of $2.5 million a year for road upkeep and supplement that with state funds or budgetary funds to spend approximately $3 to $3.25 million a year, which is the maximum we can do based on our staffing,” said town manager Mark Sciota. “We’d like to do that for the next four years and prove to the public that this is a very good plan, then come back to the public four years from now and request to do it again.”

Sciota said the town has done this twice in the past but with $11 million, and both times were successful.

“We haven’t done it in a while, and so we’ve been using monies from our budget, which has a direct impact on the taxpayer,” he said. “So, we’re trying to do the bonding aspect, then get in the habit of doing this every four years, so it levels out the effect on the taxpayer.”

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Town engineer Annette Turnquist explained that a new computer program that the town has will direct them to the roads that need fixing the most.

“It basically prioritizes the roads in a manner that gives us the biggest bang for our buck,” said Turnquist. When work is done on a road, the program can be updated.

“It is very reassuring to have a system in place that is not favoring certain roads,” said council chair Victoria Triano.

Two Southington residents spoke in favor of the bond ordinance during a public hearing prior to the vote.

Southington economic development director Lou Perillo shared his support for the bond.

“Ten million dollars sounds like a lot of money, but when you’re looking at over 200 miles of road in town, it’s much cheaper in the long run to maintain and take care of our roads than to have capital reconstruction projects all over town,” he said. “As a taxpayer, you’ll pay one way or another. You can hit a pothole, need to get your front end done, and it’ll be untimely to have to get that fixed. This is better for businesses and people to plan long-term.”

Perillo added that the plan is done by professionals, and there is no favoritism based on the roads themselves. He also pointed out that some of the town trucks have had issues in the past of needing repairs because of wear and tear from driving on town roads. Perillo said the cost of repairs to the vehicles is significant over time.

“In conclusion, this bond ordinance will help maintain property values, it makes financial sense, and it will be good for the long-term,” he said.

Another resident, Peter Andersen, spoke in favor of the ordinance.

“As a bicyclist in town, I think the improvements, especially of the worst roads first, will make it safer for most bicyclists and drivers who are trying to avoid the same potholes in town,” said Andersen.

The unanimous vote of the council ensures that the ordinance will go before voters as a referendum question this November.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at News@SouthingtonObserver.com.