Ambulance barn's fate in hands of voters
Town leaders still fear the price tag might be too high to pass muster with taxpayers at a referendum Mayor Patricia Murphy intends to schedule for mid-October.
Republican Board of Finance member George McLaughlin wants the Town Council to consider changing the Landfill Settlement Fund ordinance so the town can pay cash for the new facility rather than issue $3 million in bonds.
The ambulance corps has pledged $100,000 and the Board of Finance approved appropriating $650,000 from the town's unused fund balance.
He asked his fellow finance board members Wednesday night to amend the Town Council's motion to reflect such a plan, but the other five members agreed they could not amend the proposed resolution.
He then proposed a motion to recommend the Town Council consider such a funding option, and that was defeated in a 3-3 vote.
McLaughlin proved testy over what he saw as an unwillingness of the Board of Finance to spare town residents some of the financial burden of the ambulance barn, but other board members argued that their role was to vote on the Town Council's request.
McLaughlin has petitioned for a Republican seat on the Town Council in the November election.
Waste Management is repaying a $43-million penalty to New Milford for violating its regulations related to the now-capped Route 7 landfill. Over the course of 25 years, which started in 1998, the town will receive the money in periodic installments.
In 2002, the town adopted an ordinance to restrict the use of those funds to acquiring land or buildings or for the construction of recreational, educational or library facilities. In addition, the money can be used to buy open space or buy development rights for farm and other agricultural land.
McLaughlin proposed revising the ordinance to incorporate facilities for town emergency services. He also proposed naming the ambulance barn after the late George Doring, a former Zoning Commission chairman who was instrumental in winning the Waste Management settlement.
Several Board of Finance members said they have reservations about spending Waste Management settlement money for this project, because the town might need the money to buy land in coming years.
They noted that arguments over how the Waste Management funds could be spent were quite heated, and they do not wish to revisit that debate.
Board of Finance member Shelly Pruss said he believes town residents recognize the need for a new ambulance barn and will support financing the project, which has been carefully researched and considered.
McLaughlin said he worries that despite the worthiness of the project, taxpayers will balk at the expense. He thinks the Board of Finance needs to take a leadership role in determining how best to fund significant town projects.
He called his funding proposal a "win-win" for everyone.