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01/21/2015

Waterbury Board of Aldermen postponed a $19.5 million bond vote

City bond vote postponed
Aldermen aim to examine details of downtown project
BY PENELOPE OVERTON REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN


WATERBURY — The Board of Aldermen postponed a $19.5 million bond vote on a downtown road project Tuesday to give the city time to clarify the real purpose of the project.

The Waterbury Active Transportation and Economic Project, or what's being called WATER for short, might have started as a dream to lengthen the Naugatuck River Greenway trail, but that's not what it is anymore.

The U.S. Department of Transportation chose not to fund the trail part of the city's application for federal funding, city officials told aldermen and residents at a board meeting Tuesday.

But what's left is still a "game changer," said mayoral adviser Kevin M. DelGobbo. It would rebuild Freight and Jackson streets, improve Meadow Street and build a pedestrian bridge from the train station to Library Park.

For an investment of $5.1 million, Waterbury would get a $14.4 million federal grant that will unlock the development potential of a 60-acre swath of the long neglected Freight Street area, project boosters said.

If the Board of Aldermen were to reject the bond proposal, Waterbury would never get another federal transportation again, said project official Salvatore Porzio. No one has ever turned this kind of grant down.

Board President Paul K. Pernerewski Jr. declared at the outset of the meeting that there would be no vote Tuesday, giving the public, as well as aldermen, a chance to mull over the proposal details.

He said he hopes to call a special meeting Monday to hold a vote.

It was unclear whether the bond proposal would have had the 10 votes needed to pass Tuesday. Republicans wanted to know the city's plans for extending the greenway, and if the road work stood alone without it.

They also voiced concerns about the tax impact of the project.

City officials had been reluctant to disclose the impact before, saying that it was unlikely the city would ever have to pay for its entire $5.1 million share because the state would probably step up to cover it.

But on Tuesday, some city officials said the city might not want a state assist for the city share, but would rather have it to help build, perhaps, the second phase of the greenway, if only to avoid costly delays.

If the city were to borrow the full $5.1 million, the average city taxpayer, who owns a home appraised at $150,000, would pay about $10 a year in taxes to cover the $389,000 annual debt service payment.

But Michael LeBlanc, city finance director, said the projected benefits of the project, such as increased property values and the increase in tax-paying businesses along Freight, would likely more than make up for that.
More Stories About: Waterbury, Greater Waterbury, Naugatuck River Greenway, Waterbury Active Transportation and Economic Resurgence

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