Beacon Falls bonding plan on hold

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

BEACON FALLS — A plan to borrow $6 million for capital improvements is on hold until the state lifts restrictions in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and the town can hold a public vote on the bonding resolutions.

Town officials have proposed borrowing $5 million for road repairs, storm water drainage and sewer improvements, and $1 million to make improvements at the wastewater treatment plant.

The resolutions have received all the necessary approvals from local boards and commissions. First Selectman Gerard Smith said officials are waiting for the state to lift social gathering restrictions to hold a hearing and town meeting on the resolutions.

“It’s all set and ready to go for the town meeting,” Smith said.

The state waived in-person voting requirements due to the coronavirus pandemic and gave municipal officials broad authority on financial decisions, like setting the budget. The town’s 2020-21 budget includes $94,500 for the first interest payment due on borrowing the money.

Through an executive order, Gov. Ned Lamont granted municipal officials authority to issue bonds or notes instead of going to a town meeting. The order states, though, that if the appropriation is more than 1% of a town’s budget — which $6 million is in Beacon Falls — officials have to show there is a need to act immediately to avoid endangering public health and welfare, prevent significant financial loss, or it’s necessary for the protection of people and property.

Smith sought a legal opinion on whether officials could approve the bonding resolutions without a town meeting, and the town’s counsel advised officials to wait.

“We’ve been advised by counsel that we can’t do anything until we have a town meeting and we have everyone there,” Smith said.

It’s unclear when the town, which needs at least 12 voters to attend a town meeting, will be able to send the resolutions to a vote.

Smith plans to hold a town meeting soon after the restrictions are lifted in hopes of getting the resolutions approved and starting some of the work before winter.

“I’m anxious to get that approved. Our road projects are near the ending of completion. Before we can finish, we need the bonding to do that,” Smith said. “Everything is time sensitive.”