Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, October 16, 2020
Stonington to hold special Town Meeting October 24
Vote on putting $140,000 into savings
by Leslie Landrigan
The board of selectmen voted on October 12 to hold a special town meeting at 9 a.m. at the fire station on Saturday, October 24, in order to delay spending on $140,000 worth of projects. The expenditures—on the playground, Town Hall, a new fire station, waterfront projects and a dog park—were approved at Town Meeting in March.
“We have to go to Town Meeting because the voters voted on it,” said Town Manager Kathleen Billings. She explained that some spending, like paving, automatically reverts to a surplus fund. But when voters approve spending on a specific project, they have to then vote on not spending for it, she said.
Selectmen said they thought it prudent to hold off on some projects because they’re uncertain about the impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on tax revenue.
“We want to make sure that next year if things aren’t rosy that we’ve got a more than adequate surplus if, God forbid, something should be happening,” said Selectman Evelyn Duncan.
She said the town could restore the funds to each project if next year is a good year.
But on one project the selectmen propose spending more, rather than less: broadband internet.
Town Meeting in March voted to spend $75,000 to improve internet service, with Consolidated Communications paying an equal amount. As it turned out, the town’s share of the cost of improving service just along the Burnt Cove end of Airport Road came to $60,000.
It will cost the town an additional $55,000 to complete the part of Airport Road where the Island Medical Center is located.
With $10,000 in the fund and $15,000 left over from the project at the Burnt Cove end of Airport Road, Stonington has to spend another $30,000 for the other end. Selectmen are therefore asking voters to approve spending $30,000 from the Rainy Day Reserve Fund to finish internet improvements along Airport Road.
“With people working from home, kids trying to study from home, I think it’s something we need to develop as much as we can,” Billings said.
She said Consolidated Communications plans to begin work in November and December. The upgrade will also expand capacity for all of Stonington.
The selectmen propose taking all $25,000 from the Town Hall Reserve Fund, money that was to be used for repairing a stone wall that’s collapsing.
They want to put half the money, or $25,000, from the Fire Station Building Capital Project Fund into savings, and move another $12,500 for the Waterfront Access Reserve Fund into savings.
The selectmen also recommend putting half the money for the playground, or $50,000, into savings, as well as half the money for the Sea Level Rise Reserve Fund, or $25,000.
Finally, the select board recommends transferring half the money appropriated for a dog park, or $2,500, into savings.
There are eight articles on the warrant. Billings said the meeting will be held outside because people aren’t comfortable being inside during the pandemic. A small public address system will be used, and if it rains the meeting will adjourn for another day, Billings said.