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Norwich City Council has busy agenda Monday

Norwich — There will be no mid-summer break for the Norwich City Council. 

Aldermen will hold three public hearings Monday, one on a plan to bond the city’s entire $145 million pension obligation and another to bond $740,000 for engineering of a new exit ramp for a proposed second business park.

They also will be asked to vote on City Manager John Salomone’s proposed plan to spend the bulk of the city’s $14.7 million in federal American Rescue Plan COVID-19 relief funds.

Public comment will be taken on those three measures, along with a new proposed zoning ordinance to allow rental storage units in Planned Commercial zones in the city.

The council meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday in City Hall.

The council faces a tight timeline on the plan to bond the city’s $145 million pension obligation, which would require voter approval at a referendum. The council must vote on the proposed ordinance in August to have time to get the item on the Nov. 2 ballot. Aldermen and representatives from Norwich Public Utilities and the school system attended a June 29 presentation on the proposal.

With the current favorable interest rates on municipal bonds, finance officials estimated the plan would save about $43 million over a 30-year period. Instead of the city paying an annual contribution to the total pension obligation, budgeted at $13.7 million in this year’s city operating budget, the bond proceeds would pay off the entire pension obligation. The city would budget annually to pay the debt service and pension contributions for active employees. That total is expected to be lower by more than $1 million each year.

The proposed ordinance to bond $740,000 to redesign the Interstate 395 Exit 18 ramp does not require a referendum, but the council will hold a public hearing on the plan Monday. The spending is part of advanced work on the proposed second business park on former farmland in the Occum area and would pay for “planning, permitting and engineering” to create a dedicated lane for traffic heading to the site.

The Norwich Community Development Corp. has been studying the idea of creating what is being dubbed “business park north” on land encompassing the former Tarryk and Doolittle farms and other adjacent properties on Canterbury Turnpike and Lawler Lane and off Route 97 in Occum. NCDC has a purchase agreement with current owners Byron Brook Country Club LLC and M&A Holdings LLC, for $3.55 million for 17 parcels, that runs through Dec. 15 with possible extensions through 2022.

City Manager Salomone said the business park proposal is too preliminary to consider using some of the city’s anticipated nearly $30 million in American Rescue Plan grants over the next two years. He presented his plan to the City Council July 6 outlining his proposal for spending about $10 million of the city’s first-year total of $14.6 million in ARP funds. Norwich will receive another $14.6 million next year.

His plan left $5.4 million in reserve, but on Monday, Salomone will request that $500,000 of the surplus be allocated to Norwich Free Academy to help fund restoration of the slate roof on the Slater Memorial Museum. The grant would be eligible under the historic preservation category in the ARP, he said.

Salomone’s proposal would provide $2.1 million to Norwich Human Services for a myriad of services to residents affected by COVID-19 health issues and economic impacts; $2.1 million to complete the planned Uncas Leap Heritage Park and $2 million to NCDC to revive the expired downtown revitalization program and expand eligibility citywide.

He proposed $1.2 million for an innovative partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Eastern Connecticut, including $360,000 to assist with the construction of 10 new homes on land between Sylvester and Margerie streets, and $840,000 to rehabilitate Norwich homes taken through tax foreclosure or abandonment. Habitat would renovate the homes and find buyers to return them to the tax rolls.

Salomone’s ARP proposal will be presented as a council resolution Monday, with public comment allowed prior to any council action on this and other resolutions on the agenda.


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