Infrastructure bond to appear on November ballot

By Gabriel Blodgett | Aug 13, 2019
Photo by: Gabriel Blodgett The Select Board unanimously votes to place an infrastructure bond on the November ballot.

Rockport — The Select Board voted to move forward with a $1.5 million infrastructure bond for the November ballot at its Aug. 12 meeting.

The vote came after discussions regarding both of the projects included in the bond and whether to delay it and wait for more information regarding the West Rockport Fire Station. The fire station, which is in need of replacement, is projected to require a separate $1.5 million bond to be approved by voters.

In discussions of the potential options, Select Board Chair Debra Hall asked, “is $3 million in bonding something we’re willing to do?”

William Post, in his first meeting as town manager, said he had gone back and forth on the issue, but “knowing how far behind we are on paving,” getting a bond approved by voters in the fall could allow the town to get the projects planned for the spring.

Post added that he did not want to rush the fire station, which must be moved back from the road and expanded to accommodate larger trucks and potentially increased emergency medical services, depending on the town’s decision regarding its contract with North East Mobile Health Services and regional EMS service.

There was also much debate about the contents of the infrastructure bond, as several board members and residents expressed dismay at some items that were left out of it.

The proposed bond, which totals $1,382,863, includes money for the town pier, paving of several town properties, exhaust systems for the Public Works and Public Safety buildings, a vault for the Town Office, and repairs to Park Street, Old Rockland Street, South Street, Beech Hill Road, Gurney Street, Mill Street and Camden Street.

Budget Committee Vice Chair Helen Shaw said she was “astonished to see not a single one of the items the Budget Committee talked about in the spring” in the bond.

These items included repairs to Mount Pleasant Street, repairing the Walker Park seawall,  lime kiln restoration and sidewalk repairs.

“I feel betrayed,” she said. “We were told they would be on the bond, so we went along with taking them out of the town budget.”

Board member Jeffrey Hamilton, who is a liaison to the Capital Improvement Committee, which is responsible for the proposed bond, said all of the input went into the committee’s discussions and “this is what came out.”

He said seawall repair was too complicated an issue to include in the bond, as it will require working with neighbors while the lime kilns could be partially paid for with grant funding.

With regard to which roads the committee chose to address, he said condition, number of travelers and length all factored into the committee's decisions.

Board member Mark Kelley said he felt that smaller items, such as the exhaust systems, a Town Office vault, and town property paving, should be put into the annual budget, rather than included in a bond.

He said, “$190,000 should be in individual budgets.”

Post said he agreed with that logic, “as long as there’s support when budget time comes along.”

Hamilton responded that with a total paving budget of $285,000, paving the town properties – at an estimated cost of $115,000 – would leave very little funding for “actual public road work.”

“It’s not ever going to get done in the town budget,” he asserted.

Finance Director Megan Brackett noted, as she has previously done, that with the length of roads in Rockport, it would take $800,000 per year to keep up with paving.

Board member Doug Cole asked whether it would be possible to increase the bond amount to $1.5 million “to put on something sexy, like sidewalks,” a suggestion supported by Hall.

Hamilton said there was nothing special about the $1.382 million amount, but that the committee put together a list it felt had the most value.

The board will hold a budget workshop Aug. 26 before the next Select Board meeting to finalize the contents of the bond in time for it to be included on the November ballot.

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