Citing financial concerns, Providence City Council kills $40M bond plan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – In a stunning about-face, Providence City Council leaders on Tuesday withdrew their support for a proposed $40-million infrastructure bond question that will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The announcement came after negotiations between the City Council and the Elorza administration collapsed when the two sides could not agree over how the proceeds would be spent.

City Council President Luis Aponte and several members of the Council Finance Committee said they decided to pull their support for the bond after taking a closer look at the city’s bleak financial picture. But the council had also been advocating for a bond spending plan that would have given individual councilors more control over how $20 million would be spent.

Robin Muksian, the city’s director of administration, said politics got in the way of an agreement, noting that “individualized control over the money” was not something Mayor Jorge Elorza was willing to support.

Even if voters do approve the bond question, Muksian said the city will not be able to borrow the money because a spending plan is not in place.

When the administration and the council agreed to an ordinance in August that allowed the bond question to be placed on the ballot, both sides pledged to work together to publish a list of specific projects by the end of September.

When they couldn’t reach an agreement over the projects, the administration proposed that the proceeds be divided into five pools: $21.5 million for streets and sidewalks; $4 million for sewer projects; $7 million for bridge and dam repairs; $4 million for parks and recreation facilities; and $3.5 million for repairs to public buildings.

The council then introduced a resolution that called for at least $20 million to be split up across the city’s 15 wards for projects identified by individual council members. The rest of the money would have been allocated for projects selected by the Elorza administration.

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Dan McGowan ( ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan