A full complement of common council members were on hand Monday night at city hall to unanimously approve two “bond authorization” measures needed to kick-start Mayor Carlo DeMaria’s massive “capital improvements” program.
The positive action taken this week by the Councillors was in marked contrast to the embarrassing fact that they failed to muster a quorum at a recent special meeting, thus causing a two-week delay in voting on the two proposed bonds.
The aldermen are expected to act on the twin pieces of bonding legislation at their meeting slated for Monday night.
One of the proposed bonds is for $7,015,767 and it would provide funding for such things as masonry repairs at Parlin School ($500,000) and the stairs and a retaining wall at the 911 building ($50,000); renovations at the police station ($80,000); fire department repairs and design work ($250,000); installation of crosswalks ($200,000); road and sidewalk reconstruction ($3,835,767); and the rehabilitation of Glendale Park ($2,100,000).
The total cost of the Glendale Park “rehab” project, expected to take four months to complete, is estimated at $2.6-miliion, with $500,000 being covered by a state grant.
During the “public comment” period at the outset of the meeting, support for the Glendale Park improvements was voiced by several speakers, including the school department’s health/wellness coordinator, the high school’s baseball and softball coaches and a local student-athlete.
The audience also included significant support for the masonry repair work that is badly needed at the Parlin School to remedy a hazardous situation.
The second bond is in the amount of $9,152,000 for the following capital projects under the city’s separate water/sewer enterprise department: water main replacements ($5,672,000 in the form of an interest-free MWRA loan); residential (non-MWRA) water meters ($3,000,000); non-MWRA water system repairs ($350,000); and replacement of water department vehicles ($130,000).
Mayor DeMaria reassured the Councillors that “in effect, we’re not going to be spending any additional money” because of the proposed new borrowing.
He explained that that the annual cost of the new loans would be offset by old debt that is being retired and the fact that the annual appropriation of $1.2-million that the city has had for the past few years for capital improvements would no longer be necessary as a budget item in the future.
Tony Rosselli, the city’s special financial consultant, backed up the mayor.
He said that the city’s large school indebtedness will be reduced by about $100,000 a year until 2017 “and it will be completely off the books by 2021”.
Rosselli said that the new proposed bonds “will have very little, if any, impact on taxpayers”.
He pointed out that the city’s rate of borrowing would remain constant at about 4.4% of the total budget, which is actually below the acceptable municipal financing standard of 5%.
Asked directly by Councillor Rosa DeFlorio if the proposed new bonding was going to raise the tax rate, Rosselli replied: “It will not increase taxes”.
Councillor Sergio Cornelio said the issue has been discussed over and over, and the time has come to vote on the matter. “I’m against sending this matter to the finance committee for more discussion”.
The Ward One council member said: “I’m for the bonds because they’re vital to our community”.
By approving the two bond proposals, Ward Two Councillor Jason Marcus asserted that “we have a chance to do something meaningful for our neighborhoods”.