Town Council Stephen Karl Q&A
Q: The Town Council was recently taken by surprise regarding the arbitration award from the Lakeview Avenue Bridge litigation. As a Town Council member, what would you do individually to prevent something like that from happening again?
A: It is highly unusual and unlikely to go through such a protracted legal case, and then to lose it when every one of our town's representatives clearly thought New Canaan had prevailed. This unfortunate decision against the town created many issues and a costly but valuable learning experience exposing historic weaknesses in our internal processes.
Personally, I feel immediate changes are critical in the flow of information to the Council, including concise monthly reports from our budget director, running updates including costs on any legal cases against New Canaan by our town attorney, and finally immediate status reports any time we move funds from the General Fund to the Capital Non-Recurring Fund. Up to this point the Council sub-committee assigned to the task of making the appropriate corrections to the process has done an outstanding job of probing and listening, and I am confident the results will have a significant impact as a result of their diligence.
It starts and ends with better communication amongst the branches and departments in our local government, and it is certainly something that can be efficiently and permanently corrected so these issues never happen again.
Q: A few months ago, when dealing with road paving and sidewalks, Town Council had a discussion regarding bonding versus budgeting. When do you feel it is appropriate to borrow money and when is it appropriate to place it in the budget?
A: I feel it is only appropriate to borrow money after a considerable amount of detailed analysis and discussion within our collective and active Board of Selectman, Board of Finance and Town Council. Adding debt of any kind is a serious commitment that should never be taken lightly. That said, there are times when it makes sense for a municipality to take on added financial burden, and my view is when there is a long term capital project or improvement that will benefit the citizens of the town for a long period of time.
More InformationFact box
Major infrastructure projects like roads, bridges and town buildings are examples of these types of bondable items. As far as budgeted items, anything that falls into a shorter term "maintenance" category, including building upkeep, road repair, technology updates and compliance issues should anticipated and allocated annually.