MERIDEN – The cost of just over $ 13 million to renovate and expand the Meriden Public Library building on Miller Street does not exceed the threshold that could subject the project to a citywide referendum, the city’s corporate advisor wrote in a legal opinion to the city council last Friday.
Corporation Counsel Matthew G. McGoldrick wrote in a letter to Mayor Kevin Scarpati, Councilor and City Manager Timothy Coon dated October 29th, that his opinion was âthat the project does not reach the threshold above which there is a referendum and therefore the statute does City voters do not have the right to request a referendum if the city council votes to approve the library project. “
McGoldrick referred to Chapter 8, Section 18 of the Meriden City Charter in issuing his legal opinion, which covers project speakers – a copy of which the Record-Journal received on Monday.
This section of the charter, added in 2006, states that residents can request a referendum on city council-approved projects costing at least $ 10 million – a number that is “annually adjusted for the cost of living adjustment that is the current one Consumer is determined â. Price Index âor CPI, depending on the language of the charter.
McGoldrick used the CPI to calculate the purchasing power of $ 10 million in November 2006 and found that figure was equivalent to the same purchasing power of just over $ 13.6 million in September 2021.
McGoldrick found that a $ 1 million state library secured grant to the project reduced total debt – including previously approved and unapproved funds – to just over $ 12 million. The council had previously approved $ 6.8 million in bond funding for the project. Library officials are now seeking an additional $ 5.2 million in bond funding.
McGoldrick wrote the section of the city charter referring to the project referendum “would not be applicable” if the council passed a resolution increasing the additional funding requested for the project.
Another 1.9 million city officials had previously said such spending is allowed under the spending guidelines of the federal bailout law.
McGoldrick’s opinion confirms what city officials said to the Finance Committee during its October 26 meeting when the referendum issue was raised. The next regular city council meeting, which is expected to vote on decisions related to the project, is scheduled for Monday, November 15th.
Councilor Michael Carabetta, who obtained the legal opinion, told Record-Journal that he “would have liked to see” the proposal go to a referendum that would allow the council to “get the public vote on the proposal.” .
However, should the project budget exceed the threshold, proponents of a referendum would still have to petition to get the issue on the ballot and face certain voter turnout requirements under the Charter to oppose the Council’s action.
Carabetta and fellow Republican councilor Dan Brunet have both said they would support a lower cost renovation with no expansion. The majority of their Democratic Party colleagues in the Council appeared to disagree.
Carabetta suggested that the city either increase its retention cap or remove $ 5 million from its list of already approved capital improvement projects, which he identified as necessities.
The library expansion is “a wish, not a need”.
Councilor Michael Rohde, a Democrat, does not share this view. Rohde said the current library room was “too small”. Rohde said the renovation and expansion – which would include new common rooms – gives the city an “opportunity to make this library special”. This space would allow the city to host large gatherings, concerts, and other events in the downtown area.
“Having a top-notch library would be a plus with all of this,” he said.
Rohde described the cost increase after 25 years of gluing as “a drop in the ocean”. He said the decision whether to do a renovation without adding or renovating and adding will have long-term implications.
“We don’t have to be satisfied with second rate and just enough to make ends meet,” said Rohde. “… I think we have a very positive vision for the library.”
[email protected]: @MikeGagneRJ