Woodbridge holds Capital Budget forum

WOODBRIDGE - A public forum on proposed capital budget requests of over ten-million dollars for the town of Woodbridge attracted only a handful of residents last week.

Four proposed projects would require bonding by the town over the next six years: open space acquisition, a new firehouse, a public works complex and Beecher north roof replacement. Amity projects were not included as they are funded through district not town bonding.

Reading a letter from Woodbridge Conservation Vice-Chair Michael Walter, Paul DeCoster said, "The rural character of Woodbridge is changing. We can see this when driving on Peck Hill and Beecher roads, as new home subdivisions are being completed. These once scenic and forested roads offer us a glimpse of 21 century suburbia."

Walter urged an increase in open space funding for the fiscal budget years 2005, 2007 and 2009 to $ 1.5 million, for a total of $4,500,000 over the next six years ending 2010. Such funding would add "financial backing to Woodbridge's commitment to protecting our quality of life, our children's, and future generations."

Representatives from the Woodbridge Land Trust and the Woodbridge Park Association also spoke to the need to increase this funding.

Calling the current firehouse "woefully inadequate", Fire Commissioner Peter Hershman (also a member of the building committee) spoke to the need for a new firehouse.

"The town has outgrown this firehouse," he said, pointing out that it has no sprinklers, the newer fire trucks are too large to fit in the current building, and facilities for the firemen are limited.

Firm numbers for the cost of the firehouse construction will be presented on Feb. 5 at 6:30 p.m., although $4,595,000 was plugged into the requested budget.

First Selectwoman Amey Marrella spoke to the need for a public works facility. She said the facility had been inadequate in the l980's, but after the fuel spill was discovered, 1/3 of the garage was torn down.

"A substantial number of vehicles are outside and need to be in a waterproof, heated environment," she said.

A sand and salt shed would be constructed and "ideally," Marrella said, "office space, lockers and a lunch room."

The 2005 budget includes $110,000 to start siting the project with an engineer, but the major portion, $1,590.000, is budgeted for 2006.

The fourth bonding project is the roof for Beecher School North, and Marrella said she hoped everyone realized "the importance of doing this."

Changes in bonded projects from fiscal year 2004 to fiscal year 2005 include: eliminating an expenditure of $2,250,000 for additional space to Beecher School, a $1,000,000 increase in the firehouse cost and adding the public works complex.

Other projects were slated to be paid with current tax dollars if they cost less than 1 percent of the budget. They include truck replacement, building maintenance such as the town hall boiler, roadwork and bridge repairs, and removal of the portables at Beecher School.

The town debt status as of June 30, 2003, Marrella reported, was $20,725,000, and the Woodbridge portion of Amity overlapping debt, $6,676,021. The ratio of bonded debt to grand list is 2.4 percent and with the overlapping Amity debt, 3.12 percent. This, Marrella said, was slightly above the state average of 3.0 percent.

Approved projects for the March 2003 bond sale total $3,103,885: road reconstruction, a simulcast radio system, open space and Beecher School roof/facia.

Only one question was raised by a member of the public and it was regarding use of the current firehouse building after the new one is built. Marrella said there is as yet no plan for its use.