In the wake of a funding flap over the $159,000 widening of Center Street, city councilors said they are determined to ensure they know the particulars of every significant project before they’ll approve it.
City Councilor Cliff Block said that reviewing project requests ahead of time will ensure “we’re not told something that’s not true” ever again.
Block said the council was “somewhat misled” in August when city officials mistakenly said the state had provided the money for the Center Street project.
It turned out that the city itself had sold bonds to pay for the work five years ago. The intervening time was needed to come up with a design, conduct a traffic study and secure backing from necessary municipal panels, including the council.
The council agreed to award the contract to the Vernon-based VMS Construction Co. last month, with only city Councilor Kevin McCauley dissenting.
McCauley got his colleagues to support the creation of a new panel to review projects that cost more than $100,000 but the details were fuzzy.
“It was vague,” McCauley admitted.
It appears that the mayor’s five-year capital project committee will serve as the review board for projects to ensure they’re still worth pursuing before contracts are handed out, though that could change.
City Councilor Frank Nicastro pointed out that the Center Street project had been in the works for seven years before a construction contract was ready for approval.
He said that the city had already spent a fair amount of money and time on the project because officials had thought at every step that it was worth doing.
McCauley said that projects need to be looked at again in part because of the difficult economy.
McCauley said it’s important the city refrain from signing contracts until projects have been reviewed thoroughly and the facts surrounding them made clear.
But he did not ask colleagues to reconsider the Center Street project.
McCauley said he wants to “make this a positive” by focusing on the review process for upcoming projects.
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