With the deadline looming to finalize a list of projects to go to a referendum in November, the Town Council on Monday agreed to conduct a survey of a small cross-section of residents to get their feelings on the matter.
The survey, which will cost less than $3,000, will be sent out to 1,500 residents - some 10 percent of the registered voters in town. The residents will be randomly selected based on certain data such as gender, age and political party, according to town councilor Cary Prague, who proposed the resolution for the survey at Monday’s meeting.
The survey will be sent out sometime next week, Prague said.
The council has already compiled a list of projects to fund for construction totalling $12 million that includes, among other things, the following:
- $2 million for IT upgrades for the town;
- $1.7 million in town buildings upgrades;
- $3.3 million in school buildings upgrades, including roof replacements at the high school and Pleasant Valley School;
- $3 million in road re-paving and repairs;
- $650,000 to re-pave the high school parking lot; and
- $1.35 million for IT upgrades in the schools.
Prague said that a survey asking voters their opinions of the projects would provide the council with some insight as to how best to proceed.
But despite its relatively low cost, the survey sparked a lengthy debate among council members over the information that will be contained in the survey and how to best inform voters of the items that will be included in the referendum.
Town Councilor Keith Yagaloff said that he was concerned that the survey, which initially did not have dollar amounts per project and the age of the buildings, would be confusing to voters.
“I think it could be damaging,” Yagaloff said. The council, Yagaloff said, would not have any meaningful discussion to educate the public and that the survey did not contain enough detail about each project.
“We should meet two or three times before September” to inform members of the public, Yagaloff said.
Councilor Cindy Beaulieu agreed that a survey could be “very misleading.”
Deputy Mayor Gary Bazzano also said that he did not support a survey that did not break out the dollar amounts per project and that some of the items on the survey needed to be reworded. What’s more, Bazzano said that asking residents to prioritize certain items didn’t mean that those things that scored low didn’t still have to be done at some point.
Councilors Edward Havens and Jan Snyder, however, both supported the survey.
“I think it’s fair to ask 1,500 participants if there is a cost attached,” Havens said.
Additionally, Prague pushed back at the notion that voters would be more educated if the council held more informational sessions before September, noting that 10 years ago when he first entered politics he ran surveys and held meetings on certain issues.
“Nobody came,” he said.
Prague said that the same 50 or 60 people out of thousands of voters show up at the sessions.
“There’s no other way to reach people except to mail [the survey] to them,” Prague said.