Town Doings

What should have been a 45-minute minute meeting dragged to almost twice that length last night. The RTM met last night with one of the lightest agendas I’ve seen. My guess, entering the room, was that the length of the meeting would be entirely determined by the First Selectman’s State of the Town address.

Ken Flatto’s speech only took maybe 10 minutes. He praised the town, the large number of citizens who volunteer to serve the government, and then talked a little bit about things he wanted to do in order to keep the town a vital place to live for people at all ends of the economic spectrum. When he was done, we all stood to applaud. Well, most of us. Numerous Republicans remained seated; others looked to see what the protocol was and chose to stand. Its stuff like that which can spoil public service.

Anyway, we raced through the next few items on the agenda when we got to the penultimate item. It was maybe 8:40 and I was betting on being out by 9. The item was whether or not the RTM should accept a private road, a cul de sac with four homes on it, towards one edge of town. The Public Works Dept. evaluated it, indicated they could live with it despite the road not meeting the town’s requirements for all public roads. Instead of the mandated 30’ it was only 18’ and there were other odds and ends that needed attention.

We got into a long series of comments from the RTM which looped in the monotoned head of Public Works. Essentially, we asked, was there a compelling reason to accept the road? Would the town benefit? We were told, not really. It was just deemed not a problem if it was added to the town. Some wondered aloud about the property taxes paid by these four homes now, which divided the private road four ways and was included in the valuation versus what we’d see in taxes when the road was subtracted. And on and on.

I admit, there were issues raised I hadn’t considered when I first read this on the Call. Given the number of condos going up around town and the number of already existing private roads, if we allowed this road to be transferred, and it didn’t meet the standards, then we’d be setting a precedent and in the coming years, more and more roads might be given to the town, increasing our maintenance costs. All interesting food for thought.

It was soundly defeated.

Our final item involved money to complete spec work on rebuilding a bridge. This too led to lengthier-than-necessary debate since people wondered if the bridge was large enough to anticipate future traffic growth and why there was a sidewalk on one side and not both. The poor head of Public Works probably felt picked on by this time as he defended the work done to date. When the rebuilding first went before the appropriate boards, the local town associations were invited to come speak. None asked for it to be larger and none objected to the one-sided sidewalk. We approved this one, but did at least publicly discuss the need to plan for future needs.

We finally broke around 9:20 and as we left for the “socialable soda” portion of our evening, I realized this was our last early night for a while. Starting next month we’ll be focused on the town and school budgets. The school has already come in with a 7.7% increase and that’s put a lot of pressure on the town side with six union contracts still be negotiated by June. One of the loudest signals heard during the fall campaign was that high taxes had to stop and we had all hoped that would be the case this year.

It’s going to be a long spring, I see.