Lebanon Council Approves Flood Repairs

Lebanon — The City Council unanimously approved $10.3 million in flood repairs at its meeting Wednesday.

In discussion ahead of their vote, councilors pointed to the necessity of responding to an infrastructure crisis caused by last summer’s storms and the opportunity to leverage federal funds. They also credited the city’s finance office with careful planning in the face of the emergency.

“We said, ‘no,’ to certain things during budget season because we knew that it rained,” said Councilor Karen Liot Hill.

The slate of eight projects the council approved Wednesday includes repairs to Storrs Hill, a fix for a West Lebanon sewer main, improvements to swales, slopes and the runway at the airport, as well as reconstruction of Slayton Hill Road and Dulac Street.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is slated to pick up $4.5 million of the tab for the city’s storm recovery projects, while the Natural Resource Conservation Service is planning to pitch in $240,000.

The council approved paying for the city’s share of the work with $1.7 million from an unassigned fund balance and $3.9 million in borrowing.

Residents can expect to feel a pinch from the flood repairs through a property tax increase over the 20-year life of the bond, beginning in 2016. Property taxes are expected to go up 16 cents per $1,000 of value, resulting in a $40 increase on a home valued at $250,000.

In addition, sewer customers are likely to see an increase in rates, Finance Director Len Jarvi said last week.

Hill said that though the funds the council approved were substantial, she was confident that expenditures now would protect taxpayers from higher costs in the future.

Some present at Wednesday’s meeting, including Lebanon resident and former patrol officer Joe Porreca, expressed concerns about how the repairs will affect their tax bills. “I’m scared to see my taxes in July,” said Porreca.

In an email to the council ahead of the meeting, David McLaughlin, a West Lebanon resident, similarly stated his opposition to increasing the city’s tax rate.

He wrote that increases in the tax rate over the past three years have added $80 to his monthly mortgage bill, though his home assessment decreased $300.

Other attendees had particular concerns about how the projects might affect their properties.

Former City Councilor William Solari, a Slayton Hill resident, said that plans to widen the road and increase the size of ditches and culverts along Slayton Hill “seems above and beyond” and that he is “not letting (the) city do anything with my land.”

Engineers have said widening the road to allow for larger drainage ditches and culverts will require the removal of 88 percent of the stone walls on the road’s lower end and 44 percent on the upper end. The widening will also require the removal of trees along the roadside.

Dulac Street resident and Zoning Board of Adjustment Chairman Jeffrey Halpin stated his support for funding the road reconstruction projects.

Seth and Melissa Dunn, also Dulac Street residents, expressed their support for the project ahead of Wednesday’s meeting.

“We both feel that the reconstruction and further fortification are absolutely necessary in order to avoid further and future catastrophe related to runoff, flooding and drainage,” they wrote.