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Leominster OKs $1.3M loan for library - Council backs mayor's bid in show of `faith'
Matthew Bruun, Worcester Telegram & Gazette, September 30, 2006

LEOMINSTER - After lengthy and heated debate, city councilors decided to put their faith in Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella this week and approve his request to borrow up to $1.3 million to complete the expansion of the public library.

The loan authorization was approved by a 7-2 vote, with Councilors Dennis A. Rosa and Richard M. Marchand opposing.

The matter will be the subject of another public hearing Oct. 10, when the City Council must approve a second reading of the loan order.

At the lengthy meeting Thursday night, both Mr. Rosa and Mr. Marchand were concerned about raising taxes to pay for the project's cost overruns.

"The vote was very difficult," Council President Robert A. Salvatelli said yesterday. "We have to put our faith in (Mr. Mazzarella) to pay this off before we have to borrow. It came down to voting this down or having faith in the mayor."

Mr. Mazzarella said he was frustrated by councilors' posturing on the issue and said the residents of Leominster should feel confident that he will look for alternatives.

"I have a record of keeping taxes down," the mayor said. "I say to the taxpayers, just watch me. Evaluate me on my performance."

The increased cost of the library, blamed on such problems as ledge, asbestos and water remediation, has raised hackles in the city. Many residents spoke out in opposition to the funding request earlier this week, saying senior citizens cannot afford another property tax increase.

Proponents of the project say the expanded library, opening in the spring, will be a community asset for generations.

Councilors said they wanted to see other funding sources tapped to pay for the overage, including free cash or proceeds from the sale of city property.

"I based (my vote) on our financial ability to fund the $1.3 million with existing money or anticipated money that's going to be available in free cash," said Mr. Rosa, chairman of the Finance Committee.

He said the council had been placed in a tough spot by the mayor, who maintained the authorization was needed now.

Mr. Mazzarella disputed the characterization that the appropriation was a last-minute request."There was no 11th hour," he said. "We gave them this three weeks ago and they've had meeting after meeting. They always say they've been boxed into this. It's tired and old."

Mr. Salvatelli said he didn't like how the process had been handled, but his support for the library project won out.




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