Published March 27. 2013 8:00PM Updated March 27. 2013 11:40PM
Ledyard — The Town Council effectively gave its stamp of approval Wednesday night to two major municipal building projects that will likely go before voters in May.
Council members authorized the law firm Day Pitney in a 7-1 vote to draw up the documents needed to bond a $45 million renovation of Ledyard Middle School. Councilor Bill Saums was the sole dissenter.
The vote to begin the bonding process for a new $6.4 million police station that would be constructed next to Town Hall was unanimous.
The council also authorized the Board of Education to file a state grant application to help pay for the middle school construction — of which the town's share would be $17 million after reimbursement — as well as the preparation of schematic drawings and specifications for the project. Saums and fellow councilor Steve Eichelberg cast the "no" votes.
The votes concerning the middle school in particular came after some discussion and debate. While Saums agreed that something must be done about the aging middle school building, he expressed concerns about the closure of Ledyard Center School that is part of the middle school plan.
Ledyard Center School, which is situated in the center of town, brings daytime traffic to local businesses, he said, and its closure could have a negative economic impact.
But Mayor John Rodolico said once Ledyard Center closes, it will constitute a prime piece of land for the town to market in order to bring "responsible and attractive" development in.
Several council members emphasized that the choice to move forward on the building projects will not, in the end, lie with the council.
"We're simply bringing it through the channels so that ultimately the voters can make the decision," said council member Fred Allyn.
Also Wednesday, the council also authorized Rodolico to submit an application for $400,000 in grant funds from the 2013 Small Cities program for use in home rehabilitation projects.
In a public hearing before the council's regular meeting, Town Planner Charlie Karno said 26 residents have already pre-applied for the no-interest rehabilitation loans the grant would fund. Much of the interest in the loans stems from the anticipated completion of a $6.5 million water line project that will bring town water to about 200 residents but cost homeowners between $1,000 and $3,000 to hook up to.
The loans would be available to residents based on their household size and income. For example, the income limit for a family of four is approximately $65,000 — a number based on 80 percent of the median household income in the region.
The Small Cities program awarded Ledyard a $300,000 grant two years ago for the same purpose, and Karno said the grant funded between eight and 10 home rehabilitation projects. He said there is still about $100,000 left over from the 2011 grant.
"This is a win-win all the way around," Eichelberg said.