The $5 million paving bond cleared its first hurdle Monday as the Public Works Committee recommended the Board of Aldermen put it on the March ballot.
That recommendation goes to the full board next week, and the administration plans two public hearings on the bond ahead of Town Meeting Day.
The proposal, put forward by Mayor David Allaire, would allocate $4 million for roads and $1 million for sidewalks, likely spent over a five-year period. This would cover slightly more than half the estimated $8.8 million needed for the city to catch up on road maintenance, finally repairing a number of Rutland’s worst roads. Allaire said $5 million seemed like a “sweet spot” where the city could make a significant impact and then reassess. City engineer James Rotondo said he backed the $5 million number.
“It’s not zero and it’s not 8.8,” he said. “It’s somewhere in the middle for us to get work done.”
Rotondo said the long-term solution is to move away from repair bonds and adequately fund road maintenance on an annual basis.
“That would be my long-term goal, after we get done with this,” Allaire said.
Nobody spoke against the proposal, though some raised a concern that the specific wording, which lacked the exact streets to be paved or a schedule, might prove too vague to convince some voters.
“You need to tell me what I’m buying,” Board President Sharon Davis said. “I’m buying X number of of miles of streets. I’m buying X number of miles of sidewalk. That’s the way I’d present it to the public.”
Allaire, Rotondo and Public Works Commissioner Jeffrey Wennberg said there were a number of variables that would affect what streets got paved when, including contractor availability and the final form of loan forgiveness programs under discussion in Montpelier.
Alderwoman Melinda Humphrey asked if it would be better for the city to simply budget an extra $1 million a year over the next five years instead of paying interest on a bond. Allaire and Wennberg both said that would result in extreme sticker shock at budget time.
Rotondo said that if the bond passes, planning would start right away and that he expects work would “really kick in” by spring of 2020.
“There’s a lot of work involved here and it’s going to take a lot of planning up front to get organized,” he said.