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Llodra: Town is ‘Bottomed Out’ on Road Improvement Funds

The First Selectman says Newtown cannot afford capital road improvements without a substantial cost increase in coming years.

This story is the first in a three-part look at issues facing Newtown’s roads and intersections. Check Newtown Patch Wednesday for the second installment in the series.

The 0.3% budget increase proposed by First Selectman Pat Llodra last week includes $1 million in funding for capital road improvement — the same amount approved in 2013 and the years prior. But some officials say 2014 may be the last year Newtown can wait.

"We’re trying to keep roads in our operational budget, but we’re to the point where I think it’s almost intolerable,” Llodra said during the budget presentation at the Newtown Municipal Center. “You’re going to see a significantly increased request next year. There’s no other places we can go to find money to put into roads. We’re bottomed out." 

For fifteen years, Newtown’s CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) has identified a budget of $2 million per year to bring Newtown’s roads to an optimal condition. The current five-year CIP calls for splitting funds between major reconstruction at Birch Hill Road, Pond Brook Road and Hundred Acres, along with major resurfacing at Jeremiah Road, Great Hill Road and Gelding Hill Road. But for the past several years, only half the sum has been included in the budget.

"And basically, it’s catching up to us,” Selectman Jim Gaston said. "Or it’s caught up to us, quite frankly.”

Selectman Will Rodgers said he hoped roads wouldn’t become a “scapegoat” if the 0.3% budget goes through tough cuts or multiple referenda.

"Too many years in the past that’s been done, because it’s convenient. I hope we’d be resisting that if, God forbid, we need to be looking at budget reductions after the first referendum."

275 Miles of Road, 3.5 Miles of Improvement

How far does the million dollars a year go? Llodra said workers were able to complete improvements on 3.5 of Newtown’s 275 miles of road last year.

“We did a lot of drainage projects,” she said. “It might take us three years to do a road. At three miles a year, we’re never going to get all of this done. Drive on any of our roads. Drive on Queen Street. You’re going to feel the impact of not investing in our roads.”

If the town can’t find a way to increase its capital road program subsidy, Llodra said a bond would be one option — but not her favorite solution.

"I’ve resisted that, and will continue to resist it,” she said. "We shouldn’t be borrowing money to fix our roads. Once you use bonding to fix your roads, you can’t get out of it.”

Llodra told residents at the Wednesday meeting she “struggled to keep the budget as low as possible,” reining in municipal services and eliminating positions from police, parks and recreation and communication departments to cover required expenses.

The town spent just under its $1 million budget on capital road improvement in 2012 and 2013 — $997,383 and $967,964, respectively.

Selectmen will meet for two budget discussion sessions — Jan. 29 and Feb. 3 — before presenting the budget to the Board of Finance Feb. 10.
Thomas Crafts January 29, 2014 at 08:16 AM
You have 1,000 fewer kids in the schools, and you can't find any money for the roads.
Lyle Murphy January 29, 2014 at 11:35 AM
How does $1,000,000 per 3.5miles compare to neighboring towns?
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com January 29, 2014 at 11:59 AM
Lyle don't be silly. The Board of Finance only asks that type of question about the school budget, never the municipal budget. Never have they asked or shown us charts showing what the per person municipal expense is.
JED January 29, 2014 at 07:56 PM
The priorities of the residents of Newtown are still bring ignored. Ms Llodra has stated that the "town has bottomed out" . NEWS FLASH - so have the residents of Newtown bottomed out. Taxes are up/property values down.
Douglas Brennan February 02, 2014 at 10:23 PM
If you think that the job has been properly done for the last twenty years think again. If you waste millions each year eventually you will not have enough money to pay for essential services. Just look at Detroit.

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