No drama, as $6.9 million bonding for capital projects pass easily

Monroe Town Hall in the evening. Photo by John Babina

MONROE, CT — Voters overwhelmingly approved $6.9 million in bonding for capital projects for public safety, town roads and the school district at a Town Meeting on Monday night.

Among the things the bonding will pay for is the renovation and addition to the Monroe Volunteer Emergency Medical Service’s headquarters at Jockey Hollow Firehouse, 54 Jockey Hollow Road.

Voters also approved a resolution authorizing the sale of real estate and acceptance of gifts of real estate.

Registrars and deputy registrars of voters sat at a table near the Monroe Town Hall entrance to check the I.D.’s of over 70 voters, who cast their ballots inside the Council Chambers.

Councilman Jonathan Formichella served as moderator, Town Attorney Frank Lieto was the parliamentarian and Town Clerk Vida Stone read the call of the meeting.

Voters cast ballots of different colors, signifying the project: green, gold, pink, blue, yellow and white.

First Selectman Ken Kellogg presented each project. Even if all of the bonding was approved, he said the debt service obligations would still be well within what the town has been historically comfortable with.

The town did not bond for any projects last year, because of the economic uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Kellogg said the bonding issues voted on Monday were for projects that are time sensitive.

The big ticket item was $4.1 million in bonding for the EMS building project.

Kellogg credited the building committee and Burlington Construction for saving about $500,000 by putting each aspect of the project out to bid. Close to $1 million of work will be done by Monroe companies, added.

The total cost of the project is over $4.5 million, but the town will also use a $500,000 Small Town Economic Assistant Program grant.

EMS Deputy Chief Craig Rosenberg thanked members of the building committee and everyone who got the project to this point. The project includes a renovation with two additions to the front of the building.

“This is all about needs,” Rosenberg said, explaining how there are no adequate places to shower, sleep, and host training sessions and meetings. “The pandemic highlighted deficiencies with the facility.”

Rosenberg acknowledged the project is a big investment by the town. He said EMS responds to about 1,500 calls a year, adding, “every one of these calls is an opportunity for us to repay that investment.”

Registrars Margaret J. Villani, R, and Katherine A. B. Briggs, D, collected the green ballots in white plastic bins, then performed a hand count at a table in front of the dais.

The EMS building project was approved by a vote of 68 to 2.

DPW vehicles are golden

The next vote was to bond for $520,000 to buy trucks and equipment for the Monroe Department of Public Works.

The package includes a $250,000 dump truck and a $265,000 excavator under the DPW’s vehicle replacement program. There is also be $5,000 in bond issuance costs.

Kellogg said public works tries to replace two vehicles per year and, for the past several years, had focused on large dump trucks, which are also used for plowing snow.

Instead of two trucks, the town will purchase a rubber tire excavator, which offers more versatility than a backhoe, allowing public works to make more efficient drainage repairs, giving the town the ability to do more road paving work, according to Kellogg.

Voters cast gold ballots when they approved the bonding 71-2.

Monroe roads in the pink

A $1 million bonding issue will be used for phase 8 of Monroe’s road construction and reconstruction plan. Kellogg said it will be combined with last year’s bonding for a total of $2 million in capital funding for road improvements.

This bonding resolution has another $200,000 for the milling and repaving of the front ramp at Stepney Fire Station with the installation of storm drains and piping to stop water from backing up into the station during heavy rain.

There is also $20,000 for bond issuance costs.

Voters cast pink ballots, while approving the $1,220,000 bonding resolution 71-1.

Firefighters breathe easier

A $500,000 bond issue includes money for self-contained breathing apparatus and associated equipment and supplies, allowing the Stepney and Stevenson volunteer fire companies to meet National Fire Protection Association standards.

Stepney Fire Chief Dave Lewis and Stevenson Fire Chief John Howe urged voters to approve the bonding, because the fire companies have equipment that will soon expire.

Using blue ballots, voters approved the bonding 71-2.

School improvements

A $560,000 bonding resolution is for school improvements, including $110,000 to repair Masuk High School’s elevator controls to meet ADA compliance, $250,000 to remove underground oil storage tanks at Masuk and Jockey Hollow Middle School, and $190,000 for STEM computer labs and laptop replacements.

There is also $10,000 in bond issuance costs.

The first selectman said one advantage of removing the oil tanks is that the district can stop paying ongoing fees for the monitoring of the underground containers.

Kellogg said the town is trying to secure a grant for the computers, but needs an approval of the bonding to ensure it is funded before the start of next school year.

Superintendent of Schools Joseph Kobza said the $190,000 in bonding is for new laptops for elementary school teachers, who are currently using laptops that are seven to eight years old.

The Board of Education expects to finish this year with a budget surplus. If there is money that can be used to fund some of these projects, Kellogg said the town does not have to issue all of the bonding.

Voters cast yellow ballots, while approving the bonding 66-3.

One more vote

The last vote was not for bonding, rather it was a resolution to authorize the sale and acceptance of gifts of real estate with at least a two-thirds majority vote by the Town Council, rather than having a Town Meeting.

The first selectman said a woman wants to give the town a 0.29 acre property at 69 Cottage St., because she is moving out of state. Kellogg said it was appraised at $1,600 and brings in less than $40 in taxes per year.

The small, vacant piece of land abuts 11 Crystal Trail, which is already owned by the town, according to Kellogg.

“We have over 60 parcels that were acquired over the years. The oldest I found was 1969,” he said, adding the town acquired land through legal actions by the tax collector for unpaid taxes.

Kellogg said a few of the abutting property owners have expressed interest in buying some of the town’s small parcels to enhance their lots, which would return the land to the tax rolls.

Any sales of town land would have to be done in a sealed bid process for no less than the last appraised value.

Using white ballots, voters approved the resolution 65-2.

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