Fairfield's Representative Town Meeting postponed a vote Monday on a $1,037,000 bond resolution to finance Fiscal Year 2014's non-recurring capital projects, citing lack of information and a need to review the capital projects process.
The requests for the coming fiscal year are:
- Design of a new bridge over Mill River (Duck Farm Road): $300,000
- Replace the Fairfield Woods Branch Library roof: $200,000
- Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) improvements at the Reef Road Fire Station: $172,000
- HVAC upgrades at Police Headquarters: $160,000
- Installation of an emergency generator at Old Town Hall: $105,000
- Bunker and tee box renovations at H. Smith Richardson Golf Course (part of a 10-year, $1 million upgrade project): $100,000
A $125,000 request for a phone consultant for the town's new phone system and a $125,000 plan to add more light fixtures to the town's tennis courts were previously scrapped by the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance, respectively.
"We want to hear reports on each of these," Minority Leader Hal Schwartz, D-7, said when he moved to postpone the vote to the body's March meeting.
"We have questions and we want answers."
David Becker, R-1, and Ellen Jacob, R-9, agreed.
Becker suggested that the Department of Public Works -- which puts forward the capital requests for the town each year -- model its justification for the projects as the Board of Education did in 2012 with its capital project booklet.
"It answered a lot of questions right off the bat," Becker said.
Jacob pointed out that Director of Public Works Joe Michelangelo, who is undergoing his first budget season in Fairfield, tried to answer a lot of the RTM's questions before the meeting but there "just wasn't enough time."
She said she would like for the department to provide a history of similar projects for each new proposal -- that history should also include the amount bonded, any state or federal aid the town received, and the final cost.
"If we had a little history," Jacob said, the RTM and the public might be happier with the projects proposed.
David Mackenzie, R-3, added that the way the capital projects approval process works needs to be improved.
The way it's done now, he said, is that a "best-guess" estimate is put out as a bond request, but town bodies "should have a better number" to work with when voting on projects -- a number that is cost out ahead of time with building and project specifications.
Though the RTM does not set up the process for budget season -- that's the Board of Finance's charge, according to Schwartz -- members like Peter Ambrose, R-2, said that if the body is uncomfortable with the process now, it will still be concerned a month from now.
John Mitola, D-2, raised another point that he hoped is answered before the March meeting. He said that he had heard "through the grapevine" that contractors will not bid on projects unless the RTM has already approved funding.
The RTM will continue the discussion on March 18, the next scheduled meeting.