The Thursday Suffield Town Meeting topics were met with a few questions but in the end, there was no opposition to a $4.5 million road and bridge bond proposal. Also at the meeting was resounding approval for the acceptance of grant money for sewer work on South Street and spending $201,000 to help purchase development rights to Bielonko Farms.
Road Bond for $3.472 million: Approved
Several residents questioned why the added request after approving $3.2 million dollars for roads just over a year ago and if this would bring all the roads up to speed.
“These roads didn’t fall apart overnight,” said Rich Ferrari.
Denny Kreps agreed. “Why are the roads so much worse a year later that we have to go and spend more money,” he said. “I challenge the First Selectman that this won’t raise taxes. Something has to pay the interest.”
McAnaney said the previous plan did not include all of the 11.4 miles in poor condition and 17.5 miles rated deficient. Suffield has approximately 75 miles of roads.
“The town hasn’t spent the money and the time has come to address the issue,” said McAnaney.
Debt from the bond will add $737,000 to the debt service budget in the first year with slight declines each year after for nine years. Because some debt is falling off the books in upcoming years, and changes in capital budgeting, the First Selectman said there should be no impact on taxes.
“Our intention is not to do that at all,” said McAnaney.
However, board of finance member Brian Kost pointed out it could result in a small increase of one percent ($50 on a $5,000 tax bill) per year.
“The town doesn’t have much in terms of debt,” said McAnaney. “Most towns have between eight to nine percent... so we are fairly conservative with debt.”
Kerry White wanted “assurance” the town would actually bond with immediacy since McAnaney held off on selling the approved bonds last year to wait to add this proposal to it.
$750,000 for repair of the Boston Neck Bridge: Approved
The bridge was closed in April due to extreme deterioration and after a summer of studies and plans the project design is complete and ready to go to bid. The residents approved $750,000 to add to $250,000 already in the budget for bridge repairs.
Acceptance of a State Grant of $980,000: Approved
The monies would build water and sewer lines down South Street beween Spencer and Austin and open up town owned land to light industrial development there.
“Developers want development-ready land,” said Economic Development Director Patrick McMahon.
Farmland Preservation purchase: Approved
The Town of Suffield will pay $201,000 or 25 percent of the cost with the State of Connecticut picking up the remaining 75 percent to buy $785,000 in development rights to a section (58 acres along the Connecticut River) of Bielonko Farms. The land cannot be sold for any other purpose than agriculture as a result of this purchase.
Bill Hawkins, town planner, said the purchase helps preserve the town’s agricultural heritage, keep farms affordable for future generations, controls population and development growth, contributes to the farming economy, and keeps public services low as it generates more in taxes than it requires of town services.
The remaining balance in the town’s farmland preservation and open space fund would be $160,000 for future purchases. Each year the town officials can set aside money in the budget for the fund. In the current budget year, no funding was added.
Residents who spoke out to support the purchase applauded the farmland preservation program.
“Thank you to all the farmers who allow us to purchase these rights,” said Eleanor Binns.
“This is the best investment the town makes,” added Janet Banks.