New Bedford Mayor Urges City Council to Pass $11 Million Capital Improvement Plan
Three weeks after the New Bedford City Council unexpectedly voted to delay the FY23 capital improvement loan, the matter is scheduled to appear yet again before the City Council Finance Committee Thursday evening for approval before it again goes back to the full council for a vote.
Capital improvement loans are a common and noncontroversial practice in every municipality in the Commonwealth. They are used by city and town governments as a sustainable way to make necessary improvements to public assets such as school buildings, roads, and public safety.
At the July 21 city council meeting which was chaired by Councilor-at-Large Linda Morad due to Council President Ian Abreu being on vacation, the capital improvement package was before the council for a vote to approve – but the council voted 7-2 to send it back to the Finance Committee, which had already voted to send the loan to the council for approval one week earlier. Councilor Morad said the loan warranted further discussion.
The loan order totals $11.17 million, which would go towards police, fire, and EMS equipment and upgrades as well as improvements to New Bedford city buildings and infrastructure, including $3 million for road and sidewalk repair, and upgrades to the City-owned Buttonwood Park Zoo to make it more accessible for park goers with disabilities.
In an appearance on WBSM's SouthCoast Tonight, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell explained that the council's failure to approve the loan puts these projects on hold for months, and due to the rising rates of interest for borrowing, will cost the taxpayers more money to complete these projects when they are finally approved by the council.
Mitchell also said that since the City's capital improvement program has only been implemented in the 10 years he's been in office, while other cities and towns have had theirs for decades. He said the City is significantly lagging behind in necessary improvements to its public infrastructure.
"We're trying to modernize stuff," Mitchell said. "But it's not like we're gold-plating things. It's not like we're going out doing these extravagances. We're fixing things."
Mitchell said there is "no reasonable disagreement" with the projects are included in the capital improvement loan. He also explained that the data from Wall Street rating agencies show that New Bedford's borrowing level is significantly lower than the average city nationwide – thus the concern expressed by some members of the council of the city is over-extending itself on capital improvement loans is nonexistent.
Mitchell also discussed his working relationship with members of the city council, which is what he described as "middle-of-the-pack" compared to other mayor-council relationships throughout the country.
"I think it's fair to for the public to expect every elected official to do their homework, to understand the issues, to form an opinion, and say why they're voting one way or not," Mitchell said.
When asked if he is saying some members of the city council don't meet those expectations, Mitchell replied, "I could be saying that. But that's not breaking news, Marcus."
Listen to Chris and Marcus full interview with Mayor Mitchell on SouthCoast Tonight.