Utica Common Council overrides mayor's veto on paving plan
The Utica Common Council is moving forward with a plan to re-pave every road in the city after they voted last week to override the mayor's veto. The 15-year project will cost $75 million.
Mayor Robert Palmieri opposed the plan because it could require Utica to borrow more than $48 million. He said locking the city into long-term debt is ill advised. Councilman David Testa is also skeptical about the cost, noting that the plan already calls for an annual .74 percent property tax increase.
"We have like a 5 percent tax increase we're looking at right now and with this it would make it like 6," Testa said. "We've got other things - parking garage ready to fall, police, fire, DPW. They all have contracts that will increase over the next three years."
Testa and Palmieri have instead called for a shorter plan. But the architect of the initiative, Councilman Joe Marino, said the city's roads are in a severe state of disrepair and need to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Marino said the council will now focus its efforts on finding additional ways to pay for the project to limit how much the city has to borrow. He suggested options like an increase in sales taxes or a user fee that would require all residents and businesses to contribute to the renovations. Marino also wants to meet with utility companies and ask them to guarantee any patches they make in the roads for longer than their current two-year warranty.
"What we do is pave a road and what they do is cut holes in it," Marino said. "If we're not on the same page, there's no use. We should not throw good money after bad so that's what we're going to do first."
Ultimately, the public will have the final said on the plan. A November referendum will ask residents to increase the city's annual spending on road paving from $2 million to $5 million.