City Of Meriden
2009 Legislative Priorities
l. Approval of Authorized Funding for the Hub Reuse pk"oject, the
Intermodal Transit Center, Factory H Remediation and Reuse, the Harbor Brook Flood Control Project, the West Main Street Streetscape Project and Hanover Pond dr"edging The Legislature through the Delegation's efforts has authorized funding for several projects of the highest priority for thc transformation of the City of Meriden into a thriving twenty-first century community. 1110se projects have not been placed on the State Bond Commission agenda for approva1. • Hub Reuse enginecring- The City has requested reauthorization of $600,000 balance of the Hub demolition grant (DECO contract #20050800001) to allow the funds to be used for engineering to pennil the pl<umed restoration of Harbor Brook and tor traffic improvements cOlUlceted to the Hub reuse project. Funds would make the Hub reuse project entirely "shovel ready" to takc advantage of any potential federal infrastructure funding. DECD recently indicated that this would require Bond Commission approval. • Hub Reuse Project ConstructioD- Public Act No. 07-7 authorized $9,000,000 for the Hub reuse project, intended specifically for engineering of flood control and park planning clements ($940,000), environmental remediation ($3.8 million), construction of flood control elements ($1.6 miIHon) and construction of park/city green ($3.9 million), with other funding to cover the balance. This request requires Bond COlrunission approval. The Hub Reuse project has gone through extensive planning exercises and community input. • Transit Center Development- The City has an application pending for $1 million of funding pursuant to Public Act No. 07-7, which alSD authorized $5,000,000 for transit projects und specifical1y identified Meriden as a pilot project community. The application for these funds was filed with OPM in June, 2008 and is still pending, 111e funds would be used for planning and engineering for a new transit center to serve the planned Springtleld/New Haven commuter rail line and as the centerp1ece with the Hub site for the transit oriented development identified in the City's Plan of Conservation and Development. • Factory H Reuse Project- Special Act 05-1 authorized $3,000,000 in funding fbr flood control projects, of which $1
million was intended for demolition of the Factory H building. Public Act 96-191 authorized $200,000 for flood control work. The City has leveraged over $3.4 million of funding through the EP A and $1 million of other funding to clean up immediate hazards, mitigate friable asbestos in the building and remove other hazardous materials. The reuse plan has had extensive community and ncighborhood input. Demolition of the structure will allow for reuse of the property as green space and together with the physically attached building at 116 Cook Avenue, for mixed use development providing housing and commercial space. The demolition activities are ready to go to bid upon securing funding. Further funding for demolition and other reuse activities in the approximate amount of an additional $1 million is required and requested for authorization in the 2009 legislative session. The City applied for funding from the Brownfield's Pilot Project funding but was denied in favor of a project in South Norwalk. • Harbor Brook Flood Control Projcct- Flood control rernains a top priority for the City in the 2009 legislative session. As described above, prior funding for flood control activities was included in the Hub and Factory H authOlizations, but that funding has not received Bond Commission approval. Flood control improvements totaling over $l5 million in cost have been completed with city and federal funding and state funding for dam projects. Pcnnitting for the entire project is in proccss with the DEP. Bridge work is designed and ready to go or nearing completion for the Columbus Avenue and Center Street bridges. The City is requesting approval this session for further funding of $10 million for upstream detention, Center Street bridge reconstruction, Coopcr Street bridge design and reconstruction, Amtrak bridge design and channel work. Executing the flood control project 1$ necessary to the future economic development of the City, especially in the City center. In addition, the flood control project plan is intended to provide additional recreational facilities, including extension of the linear trail project from the Phase II terminus at Coe Avenue to Giuff1ida Park, a project with the potential to entirely transform the City's image. • West Main Street Streetscape Projeet- funding in the amount of $500,000 was approved in the 2005 legislative session for this project. but has not becn approved by the State Bond Commission. Federal funding in the amount of $450,000 was approved in 2007. Design work previollsly done is being updated to meet DOT requirements. The total cost of the project had been estimated at $2.49 million. • Hanover Pond dredging- Funding in the amount of $500,000 also was approved in 2005 for engineering work for this project. That has not been approved by the Bond Commission, which is
particularly unfortunate now that federal funding may become available for ready to go projects. The City has done envlronmentai assessment and is ready to move forward with relocation of a sewer trunk line that crosses the pond. Approval of the authorized funds would allow the project to be ready to go at some future date as funding becomes available. 2
Funding For Education
Funding for education is a special priority for the City in this next legislative session. The Board of Education administration has estimated that $6.9 million is necessary for funding of a budget that will maintain current service levels. Just more than half of that amount is required for anticipated increases in special education costs. TI1e State Board of Education has recommended cuts in RCS funding of approximately 12%. A twelve percent reduction in ECS funding to Meriden would result in a revenue Joss of $6.4 million. To raise revenue to meet the Board request and replace the lost ECS funding would require a tour mill increase in the tax rate, apart from any other revenue loss or increased expenditures in the City budget for next year. That equates to a fourteen percent increase in taxes in the middle of the worst economy in many years, somcthing clearly not acceptable. Continuation of ECS funding with some level of increase is a necessity. Legislation is also necessary to hold the City harmless from the loss of ECS revenue due to changes in magnet school funding contained in PA 07-3. Changes in special education funding so that funding would follow the student from district to district would also decrease the burden on Meriden due to relocation of families in the midst of the school year, the cost of which is not currently is not reimbusable. Reduction in the excess cost grant funding level of 4.5% also would make the City's financial burden for special education costs more equitable. Restoring the Early Reading Success grant and suspending mandates for the next budget year on how those grant funds and how the twenty percent of withheld ECS funds are expended would assist the City in maintaining services without increasing the State's budget difficulties. The City has made great strides in controlling the pace of spending increase for local education, but reductions in state funding for education will have a devastating effect on our local school system. 3. Undercliff Property Transfer
The City is renewing its request that all or a portion of the state owned Underc1iff property be made available to the City for economic development purposes. As is we all know, there are very few large parcels of developable propcrty still available in Meridell, especially in areas where such dcvelopm~nt could occur without great ncighborhood opposition. The Undercliff property is well situated for that purpose, near other large retail properties, with good highway uccess, but relatively set apart from homes and l'VV
existing neighborhoods. Discussion in the past three years with the State department5 which currently have facilities situated on the property indicated that these facilities could be relocated with appropriate support and funding. If the propelty were made available for economic development, the City could seek a developcr through a state approved process to enter into an agreement that could provide for the relocation of those facilities. The Chamberlain Highway area has been targeted by the City t'Or future development. Expansion of the Westfield Shopping Town center has been identified by Westfield as a priority, the City's proposed Plan of Conservation and Development recommends that a portion of the former NRG property be designated for future conunercial or light industrial development, and planning is in process for improvements to 1-691. Acquisition of the Undercliff property wouJd enhance those other development prospects. 4. Chamberla'n Heights Housing Project
The City Cowlcil wishes to express its support for any effolts on the part of the delegation to assist the Meriden Housing Authority in its efforts to secure tax credits and funding for the planned rehabilitation of housing units at the Chamberlain Heights housing projects. The City Council believes that the rehabilitation and modemization of these housing units will help the City in its eftorts to provide safe, affordable and decent housing for its moderate and low income citizens. The City Council also views the rehabilitation of these units as a necessary precedent to addressing the housing needs of the residents of the Mills housing project, which is a key component of any future plans for the revitalization of the central city area and which also relates tt) the cost and success of the Harbor Brook Flood Control Project. 5. Park and Recreation Funding
The City has reinstituted its Park and Recreation Task Force to develop a new five year plan for intrastructure improvements to our park and recreation system. The City is requesting that the delegation secure authorization for funding in the amount of $750,000 for planned improvements. Other than the items detailed above, this is the only new request that the City Council is making, given the currcnt difficult economic conditions. That funding will allow the City to move forward with projects such as the rehabilitation of Jack Barry fields, construction of new fields for older players for both the Ed Walsh and Jack Barry leagues, bleacher replacement, lighting replacement, improvements for Ceppa Field to allow the relocation of the junior football program to the facility to resolve parking safety issues at Washington Park and for other recreational needs. 6. Local Funding Options
The City Council is fully cognizant of the budgetary considerations that the Legislature will face in the next session. The Council urges the delegation to thoroughly examine proposals to supplement municipal funding by allowing a local option for such items as the hotel tax or desig,nating an increase in such taxes for mWlicipal assistance. The City Council also requests that funding tor such programs as the LOCIP, TAR and Pequot grants be maintained and that funding for the reimbursement for state and hospital property pjlots be increased to the statutory level 01' at least maintained. Based on the November 12, 2008 report from OPM, it appears that nearly $250 million of the projected $1.957 billion deficit is attributable to increases in the "current services" calculation of various types of municipal assistance. Level funding of those fonnula grants would decrease the projected deficit by a percentage almost equal to thc percentage that the grants bear to the state budget, a result that would seem eqUitable. The City has reduced non education expenditures in the last two years. Decreases in state aid cannot be offset by further budget reductions without eliminating vital services, including in education and public safety; nor is shifting the tax burden onto local taxpayers an acceptable alternative.
7. Early Childhood Blueprint The City Council also wishes to express its support for the Early Childhood Blueprint effort being led by the Children First Initiative and other local agencies. Tnvestment in early childhood development not only benefits our children but will yield great savings in the future.
l. Approval of Authorized Funding for the Hub Reuse pk"oject, the Intermodal Transit Center, Factory H Remediation and Reuse, the Harbor B...