MERIDEN — The City Council voted Monday not to increase the bonding authorization for a new banquet facility next to Violi's Restaurant at Hunter Golf Course from $875,000 to $1 million.
The city requested an additional $125,000 for the project after members of a committee overseeing designs for the project did not like the look of the facility that would have been built under the original budget.
The council voted 6-6 to approve the additional bonding, two votes short of the eight needed for passage because the city has already exceeded its bonding cap for this fiscal year. Democrats Sonya Jelks and Cathy Battista said they didn’t have enough information to approve the spending.
“I’m not sure I have enough information to warrant us adding this additional cost to the taxpayer,” Democrat Sonya Jelks said.
We the People Councilor Bob Williams called the new banquet facility, which would replace a temporary tent structure that currently hosts events, “critical” because the course loses tournaments every year due to the lack of a permanent facility.
“I don’t think we can afford not to do it,” Williams said prior to the vote.
The council unanimously voted in April to approve bonding $875,000 for the banquet facility. At the time, councilors were receptive to the project because they argued the new facility had the potential to generate more revenue than the cost to construct it over the years.
The council on Monday also rejected an idea proposed by Democrat Brian Daniels to spend some of the projected $1.5 million surplus leftover from 2018-19 Fiscal Year to fund the project’s additional costs, rather than bonding it.
Mayor Kevin Scarpati and Brunet, the council’s Minority Caucus Leader, said Monday that this was the first they were hearing about the surplus. Both expressed frustration that the city didn’t go through a more thorough vetting process of how to spend the surplus money prior to Monday.
“I’m not comfortable dipping into funds that I don’t know exist,” Scarpati said. “And Mr. City Manager, if you had an inkling that we had a $1.5 million surplus, I would have thought you would have brought that to leadership’s attention.”
The city only realized the surplus in the last couple of days, Coon told councilors.
Daniels first motioned to spend $625,000 of last year’s surplus for the project which would increase the project’s total budget to $1.5 million, which some councilors were in favor of because it would have allowed the construction company to build a better-looking facility than it could with a $1 million budget.
The council voted 6-6 and Scarpati broke the tie by voting in opposition. Voting in favor were Daniels, Lowell, Williams, Carabetta, Shamock, and Graham. Jelks, Battista, Fontanella, Castro, Cardona and Brunet voted against using surplus money.
Soon after that, Daniels made a new motion to apply $124,999 of the projected surplus to the project, thus avoiding additional bonding. The vote on that motion fell the same way, with Scarpati again breaking the tie with a vote against.