Wellington Council Reapproves Bonds For Saddle Trail

The Wellington Village Council on Tuesday once again considered assessments for road improvements and a municipal water project in the southern Saddle Trail Park neighborhood after village staff discovered that a mistake had been made related to fire insurance cost reductions.

The issue brought out many of the same supporters and opponents of the plan for another two-and-a-half-hour debate.

The council approved the Saddle Trail Park assessment in April after residents had come to the village asking for the project about a year previously. The work will include paving, a 15-foot swale with potable water mains underneath, a 25-foot right of way and a 14-foot shellrock bridle trail.

After public input from many of the same supporters and opponents who had spoken when the assessments were previously approved, Councilwoman Anne Gerwig asked Village Engineer Bill Riebe to explain why it was back before the council.

“If you could just explain to us, for the record, and give a description of why we’re doing the same thing again,” Gerwig said.

Riebe explained that as part of the methodology report, it was mistakenly assumed that the fire classification would go from a Class 9 to a Class 3.

“Because of that reduction, you would see a significant reduction in fire insurance premiums,” Riebe said. “As we got into it, in about a May or June time frame, we scrutinized everything and we discovered that there was a mistake. We found it ourselves. We reported it; it’s self-disclosed. It’s not something we were trying to hide. It was a mistake; we tried to correct it. That’s why we’re going through this process one more time.”

Riebe also pointed out that the cost-benefit assessment, which included many items, such as reduced dust and potable water, had been very conservative.

He said that the vote to approve the assessment had not changed significantly, although many of the speakers in opposition called for a new vote by Saddle Trail residents.

“Many of the people who spoke tonight in opposition actually opposed the project on the original ballot, and continue to oppose, which is understandable,” Riebe said. “There are some folks who have changed their mind. Some are verifiable; some are not verifiable.”

He said that there was a lot of misinformation and inaccurate comparisons taking place, and staff had gone to great lengths to see that the village was working with accurate information.

“So, in your opinion, there is not a significant change in support?” Gerwig asked.

“There is some change, there is less support, but at this point in time, what we’re seeing is in the order of 63 percent, 64 percent, which is a huge amount to be in favor of a project like this,” Riebe said, adding that that number assumes that residents who did not vote were considered as no votes. “We have not heard from a lot of them, ever, so we don’t know if they’re in favor or opposed.”

Someone in the audience shouted “take another vote,” and Mayor Bob Margolis used the gavel for the first and only time at the meeting. “That was probably the second time I’ve done that, and it scares the you-know-what out of me, so please,” Margolis said.

Riebe pointed out that a super-majority is not needed to move the assessment process forward.

“There’s nothing in the statute. There’s no requirement for the council to have this threshold,” he said. “That’s why we’re holding this public hearing tonight.”

After more discussion, the council approved the three resolutions to reauthorize the bonds.