Hartford mulls 2 bond proposals and charter change
By Christian Avard
Staff Writer | January 10,2013
HARTFORD — Hartford residents showed support for two renovation projects that will cost a combined total of $14 million. However, they were skeptical of a town charter change that would give the Select Board the authority to impose a tax.
The Hartford School Board and Select Board introduced two bonds Monday to renovate town and school recreational facilities. The first was an $8.85 million joint bond that would fund upgrades to the Wendall A. Barwood Arena, the Maxfield Athletic Park and Hartford Memorial Middle School. It would also build a new running track, football field and field house at Hartford High School.
According to School Board Clerk Lori Dickerson, the boards believed it was in the town’s best interest to combine their efforts because the town and school facilities are connected.
“We can’t just say ‘Let’s do this first and not something else’ because everything is dependent on the other piece,” Dickerson said. “That is why we invited all of the stakeholders to weigh in and we got everyone’s buy in.”
The second bond is a $5.2 million municipal building renovation project. The money would fund a new office space and environmental and safety upgrades.
According to developer Matt Bucy, the municipal building is not up to code and needs major renovation. Bucy said $5.2 million is a good value over the span of the project and costs less compared to other municipal projects across the state.
“A survey came back that residents overwhelmingly supported the building. They didn’t want to see the building torn down. That was the message we got,” Bucy said.
According to Hartford Select Board Vice-Chairman F.X. Flynn, the joint bond may cost an individual taxpayer $90 per year ($60 in town taxes and $30 in school taxes) and up to $50 a year on the municipal bond for a home assessed at $200,000,
The town is also considering a charter change that would give the Select Board the authority to approve a 1 percent local option tax on meals, hotel rooms and alcohol. The local option tax will bring in additional $200,000 for the town and alleviate property tax increases, according to Flynn.
“Probably 70 to 80 percent (of the tax) will come from non-residents,” he said. “When you vote, you are asking to give the town another tool. You are not voting (that) the tax should be imposed.”
Reactions to the three proposals were mixed. Residents expressed support for the joint bond and commended both boards for working together.
One resident, a former teacher, was skeptical of the joint bond but had a change of heart.
“I’m on fixed income. I don’t want to give you a $100 a year. I remember hearing all day long this joyous laughter of kids at the swimming pool. That’s the way I want my tax dollars spent — giving joy to children,” Paul Keane said.
Although the charter change would give the Select Board the power to vote on a new tax, residents questioned the necessity. David Briggs of Hartford was opposed to the idea.
“Don’t fragment the tax burden with a local option tax. Strengthen the tax base,” Briggs said to applause from the audience.
The School Board and Select Board have not voted on whether to include the bonds and charter change on the Town Meeting Day warning. Flynn said both boards will make their decisions by late January.
Additional information meetings will be held Jan. 22 and March 3. Monday’s meeting was held at Hartford High School.