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Utica mayor vetoes common council's paving plan

Payne Horning
WRVO News (file photo)

Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri has vetoed a plan from the Utica Common Council to re-pave every city road over the next 15 years. Palmieri said the $75 million project would place a "substantive burden" on the city's residents. 

Utica's charter currently requires the city to invest $2 million a year in paving. Under the common council's plan, residents would be asked in a referendum this fall to increase that amount to $5 million.  

The council expects to have to raise or bond $44 million, including interest, over 30 years. But Palmieri said the council has underestimated the total price because he believes interest rates will rise beyond what they are projecting.

The plan's architect, Councilman Joe Marino, disagrees.

"In my profession, I deal with the economy a lot. I deal with accounting as I’m an accountant. I have no reason to believe interest rates won’t remain where they are or even take a tick down, but even then you’re assuming that we’re borrowing right away or for every year and that’s not the case," Marino said. 

Between now and November when the referendum would take place, Marino said the council plans to develop a plan to limit how much the city will ultimately have to borrow for the project, such as a sales tax increase. The plan already calls for a .74 percent property tax every year for a total of 11 percent over 15 years. Marino said it's worth it.

"I don’t see how it’s unreasonable at least to show people what they’re getting for their money for the price of nachos, or what I’ve heard more appropriately, the price of one bearing on the tires they’re losing from the potholes we have in the city,” Marino said. 

But after helping the city recover from an $8 million budget gap and a depleted fund reserve in 2012, Palmieri said is reluctant to endorse the expensive plan.

"During my tenure as Mayor I’ve witnessed firsthand how decisions made many years ago can negatively impact us today. In that light, I cannot in good faith support a proposal that places such a substantive burden on the next generation and ties the City’s hands financially for decades," Palmieri said in a press release.

The common council passed the plan originally with only one vote against it. Marino expects they will override the veto at their next meeting on September 7. 

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.