The Town Council approved the reading of two ordinances Tuesday authorizing the issuance of general obligation notes or bonds for the purposes of acquiring open space as well as to finance the design, construction and improvement of roads and streets throughout the town. The ordinances will be heard in public hearings during the council’s meeting next month.
The $1 million open space bond was approved by 61 percent of the voters in the November election, while the $4 million road construction and improvement bond was approved by 80 percent of voters.
“The people spoke,” said Mayor Joseph Polisena. “If we’re going to spend their tax dollars, they need to let us know how they want it spent. We follow the will of the people.”
Polisena said the $1 million for open space would be put into an interest-bearing account that will allow the town buying power to sit down and negotiate once property becomes available for acquisition.
“Thanks to the tenacity of the Municipal Land Trust and Judy Kawa (Land Trust president), and with property [prices] dropping, I think we can get a lot for our money,” Polisena said, adding that without the bond, the town wouldn’t have any means to negotiate land purchases should property become available.
Polisena said the town is in the process of purchasing 87 acres near Memorial Park, which, when completed, will tie in to the park for passive and active recreation.
“If there’s a piece of property that we’re interested in, the Land Trust will bring it before the council for approval and the council will decide whether or not to purchase the property,” the mayor said, adding the account will be managed by the finance director.
Addressing the road construction and improvements bond, Polisena asked council members to compile or update their lists of roads and streets in their district in need of repair and submit them. He said Arnie Vecchione, director of Public Works, and the town engineer would then look at the roads and rate them from 1 to 5, with 5 being the worst, and report back which are the roads that are in the worst shape and most in need of repair.
“Once we determine the roads, then we’ll start looking at prices and getting bids,” he said. “This will take two years; we’ll start this year and get as many roads done as we can, and finish up next year.”
Polisena said work would start in the spring.
“We’re ready to get rolling,” he said.
When asked how many roads the town is looking at right now, Polisena said he didn’t have a final count, as he’s waiting for newly elected District 2 council member Anthony Verardo to submit his list. He said the $4 million may not necessarily be split up evenly among the council members, as it will depend on which roads are in need of repair, but he said, “We’ll try to make sure they’re happy with the roads that get done.”
Polisena said once a road has been designated for repair, it will be brought before the council to decide the extent of repairs, as in some cases maybe only a curb needs to be fixed or a portion of road, instead of the whole thing.
“We all work together,” said Polisena of his administration and council. “We’re open, fair and transparent. We work well together and share in the responsibilities and delegation of duties. It’s democracy at its best.”
Also read at the meeting was an ordinance authorizing the issuance of general obligation refunding bonds “in an amount necessary to refund all or a portion of the town’s $6,325,000 general obligation funds for various purposes, 2005 series.”
Polisena said the ordinance allows the town to refinance the bonds by borrowing at a lower rate should the market change.
“We’ll watch the numbers closely and if the bond market goes from 4 percent to 2 percent, we’ll want to refinance immediately,” he said, adding it could save the town between $100,000 to $150,000.
In other news, with the recent cold temperatures, Polisena said the Johnston Senior Center will be turned into a “warming center” through Saturday and will be available from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. to residents without heat or who may have run out of oil.