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 28, 2014 at 05:52 AM
Roads are something we all use and see every day. Pat you have chosen cake and ice-cream over fixing the roads every time, and now it is catching up to you. We spend well under 1% of the budget on the roads. We could take it to 3% without blinking an eye, you would just have to cut lower priority items. Talk about ruining property values, bad roads do that in spades, and we have LOUSY roads. We just blew $50,000,000.00 on a new school that there aren't and won't be enough students to fill, but 1 million on the roads, which we all use, is too much for you. Get real.
James January 28, 2014 at 07:31 AM
Here we go with the Obama alarmist politics. We just wasted millions of dollars on FH. we gave raises to a town employee pool that we should have been cutting back just as the private sector has now for 5 years and now we have no money for roads , maybe we should stop the old 3 hold the shovel while one actually works syndrome, again what a joke this town has become for longtime newtowner's.
philip palilla January 28, 2014 at 08:13 AM
The problem with Queen Street? I'll tell you exactly the problem...NO ONE was supervising all the utility cuts that were made over the years, resulting in settlement because proper compaction methods were not followed, but we sure as hell had a paid "traffic officer" there for "traffic control". We have also wasted money on overlayment jobs which were a waste of money because the paving practices and materials used were sometimes sub par - they are all unraveling now.
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com January 28, 2014 at 08:28 AM
Pat and the RTC banged the low taxes drum for years, rather than communicating to the taxpayers what they are and would get for the money. Financing roads over 20 years and paying interest is crazy. Look at the priorities, Millions spend on Fairfield Hills with no accounting to the public. Millions spent and not a drop of revenue, time for a new plan. An obsession with Queen street where over a $150,000 has already been spent and the capital plan has another $150,000 to repave Queen Street. According to the Police Commission they just diverted 1800 vehicles a day, now why would we repave a road no one can even use. Not to mention the $300,000 that they want for sidewalks down queen. Having a low budget just to get republicans elected and then to bond what should have been spent on our roads is simply irresponsibly.
Thomas Crafts January 28, 2014 at 08:30 AM
Watch how fast this story leaves the front page. It will be gone by noon.
Ms R. January 28, 2014 at 08:53 AM
How about Brushy Hill Road between Castle Meadow and Platts Hill Road? Tank traps galore and the "drainage work" did not help the numerous pot holes.
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com January 28, 2014 at 08:57 AM
Don't you have a member of the republican town committee, like Queen Street does, living on your road. That's how you get preferential treatment, anything you want.
Steve January 28, 2014 at 11:59 AM
Swamp Rd is a disaster for potholes -- it gets as heavy or heavier traffic than Queen St and with the Newtown Police regularly ticketing folks for speeding it's a larger revenue maker, too. Much of Newtown needs repaving but I would rather drive on Queen St any day over Swamp Rd. Prioritize based on traffic and road condition, please!
Paul Alexander January 28, 2014 at 01:33 PM
Get a successful former private sector executive in the First Selecman's office. Pat, as delightful as she is, spent her ENTIRE life in the public sector. And NOW that she will be re-elected unopposed you are just finally realizing that the most BASIC municipal function--road maintenance--has been under prioritized in favor of lower priority items such as her Xanadu on the Hill. I smell a bond offering proposal coming.
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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