NEW BEDFORD — An $11 million loan order to borrow money for a capital improvement plan that would see funding for public safety and road repairs in New Bedford has been delayed.
The loan order totals $11.17 million, which would go towards equipping and upgrading police, fire and EMS as well as improving buildings and infrastructure in the city of New Bedford, including $3 million for road and sidewalk repairs.
The city council voted 7-2 on Thursday to send the measure back to the finance committee – just a week after the committee voted to send the order back to the full city council for a vote.
Only Ward 3 Councilor Hugh Dunn and Ward 6 Councilor Ryan Pereira voted against the postponement.
The City Council Finance Committee is made up of New Bedford’s 11 councillors.
But two councilors were absent for the July 13 finance committee meeting – including general councilor Linda Morad, who replaced city council president Ian Abreu at the full council meeting on Thursday.
Morad told her fellow advisers that despite her support for the capital investment plan, she still had some questions about some of the specific projects funded.
“I’m not looking… to delay this article,” Morad said. “But I’m looking to have a conversation about many of the things that are presented to us as part of the CIP.”
Meanwhile, Mayor Jon Mitchell said he was surprised by last week’s decision, especially given rising interest rates, which means delays could end up costing the city more.
“The city council, for some reason, decided to delay authorizing this borrowing, and in my opinion, it’s just a total surprise and a total headache,” he said, pointing out that articles are likely to have full public support.
“I think they need to explain to the public why they are not moving as quickly as possible to approve spending on roads and public safety equipment. Those are two big priorities.”
“The longer the city council delays this, the more it will cost the city to do these things,” the mayor added.
At Thursday’s city council meeting, General Counsel Naomi Carney also expressed reservations about taking out an $11 million loan.
She said council had recently approved a number of loan orders, including a recent $119 million loan for major sewer and drainage system upgrades.
“This administration put obligations on us day after day, and we approved of it,” she said.
“Taxes went up. Everything went up, and everybody’s – ‘Oh, it’s only 12 bucks here, ten bucks there,'” she said. “Are we nickel and dime our townspeople in debt?”
But Mitchell said Carney’s concerns about the city’s debt and the number of loan orders do “not correspond to reality.”
“The city’s policy goals are to have 6% or less outstanding debt as a percentage of per capita income,” he said. “With this loan, we will be at around 5%. So we will be below our own ceiling, which is itself a modest ceiling.”
Morad said that while she supports IPC as a whole, she would like to see more discussion about it.
“With all of these department heads sitting in the room ready to talk to you about these plans, the chairman of the council offered to refer the item to the full city council without any discussion,” she said.
“This motion was quickly seconded, end of conversation, adjournment of the meeting,” she added. “This is not the way the city council should do business.
But the mayor said that since city council only meets once in August, councilors have effectively pushed back the loan order until the fall.
“Department heads and certainly myself were all frustrated with the council’s lack of urgency on the matter,” he said.
“These are things we all want,” Mitchell added. “But the longer we wait, the more it will cost.”
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