2016-02-11 / Around Town

Middletown Continues Debate on Roadwork Financing

By Olga Enger

There is no disagreement that driving in Middletown can be a bumpy ride, but Town Councilors are divided on the best method to fix the failing roads.

One solution, as proposed by Town Administrator Shawn Brown, is to request Middletown voters approve a $5 million road repair bond at the November election.

“I’ve heard we are not addressing roads. I’ve put forward a plan that I think is the best for the community,” said Brown.

Councilor Paul Rodrigues countered Brown’s recommendation and questioned the need for a provision on the ballot, stating that $3 million in interest would be a financial burden on taxpayers.

“Upon review, I started to look at how it was going to involve the taxes,” he said.

Rodrigues instead proposed a “pay-as-you-go” approach, which would add $185,000 to the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for six years, thereby increasing the town’s annual road maintenance allocation to $835,000 from the current $650,000. Over six years, that would total just over $5 million.

The council plans to discuss the issue at their next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m. at Middletown Town Hall.

Brown agreed it’s not ideal to pay $3 million in interest, but the town requires an “infusion of money” to fix the failed roads.

“To maintain the 20 percent of roads that are only considered in fair [condition], you need the $650,000 to pave them,” said Brown.

“We should not have to go out and borrow against the future,” said Rodrigues. “So, why don’t we just increase the CIP, then we don’t have to pay the interest?”

The $5 million bond, which council approved to put before voters during the last budget cycle, is expected to cost taxpayers over $8 million with insurance and fees. The first year impact to taxpayers would be a 0.93 percent and 0.7 percent hike for residential and commercial, respectively.

“Remember, if the bond is approved by the voters, that’s just the impact for the first year,” Rodrigues told Newport This Week. “It’s compounded over time.”

There are 7.73 miles of roads on the list that would be repaired as part of the bond, which is estimated to cost $3,657,986. The roads would require between $30,000 and $300,000 to fix and would take approximately two years, according to town officials.

“If the total is $3 million, why are we offering a $5 million bond?” asked Rodrigues.

The failed roads, referred to as “red roads” by the town, have been identified as Adelaide Avenue, Allston Avenue, Amesbury Circle, Arruda Terrace, Barton Lane, Beachview Terrace, Bliss Mine Road, Bluegrass Drive, Briarwood Avenue, Champlin Terrace, Coggeshall Way, Crescent Road, Ellery Avenue,

Fenner Avenue, Fenner Avenue North, Gosset’s Turn Drive, Harvey Road, High Street, Honeyman Avenue, Livingston Place, Maidford River Road, Morrison Avenue, Newman Road, Olive Way, Reardon Drive, Renfrew Avenue, Riverview Avenue, Samson Lane, Sherri Lane, Stockdon Drive, Swan Drive, View Avenue, Ward Avenue, Ward Street and Warren Avenue.

Councilor Theresa Santos, who lives on Morrison Avenue, said she preferred that the town not fix her road, as it would encourage cut-through traffic. Council President Robert Sylvia said he liked the idea of saving money, but worried about taking money away from road maintenance.

“Will our roads deteriorate faster? Those are the things we have to look at,” he said. Several other councilors shared in his concerns.

“I think it’s a great idea too, but if you let some things go, they just get worse,” added Councilor Robert Kempenaar.

At the last council meeting, Brown said about $441,000 in old debt service was rolling off the books over the next two years, which would help offset the future impact to taxpayers. After the meeting, Rodrigues told Newport This Week that money could be used toward road maintenance to alleviate the concerns of his fellow councilors.

“I believe this is something we should look into,” said Sylvia. “There are a lot of good ideas on the floor.”

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