By Katie Lannan
and Chris Camire
BOSTON -- Cities and towns cheered last month's legislative approval of record numbers of road-repair money, but Gov. Deval Patrick's recent decision to release only half of the $300 million now has some of the same local leaders feeling let down.
State Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, a Leominster Democrat, said she hopes Patrick will listen to the concerns of municipal officials and release the remaining money.
"I think that money is crucial to cities and towns," she said. "We all understand how important our infrastructure is. The money needs to be released."
In Townsend, Town Administrator Andy Sheehan called the governor's decision disappointing. Townsend now stands to receive $321,555 in road-repair funds, $107,184 less than last year.
"We have plans that would far exceed what's available," Sheehan said. "It will really impact our plans for this year."
Sheehan told the Sentinel & Enterprise last month that Townsend has about 20 miles of road in need of resurfacing, but is only allocated enough money to pave a couple miles each year.
While some communities can pay at least partially for their road resurfacing, bridge improvements and other transportation upgrades through their annual budgets, others, like Townsend, rely entirely on the state reimbursements.
"We're quite disappointed here, and hoping that there will be further action to release the remaining funds," Sheehan said.
On Monday, Patrick signed a bill setting the terms to borrow the full $300 million. However, he and officials in his administration have said they will only release $150 million until they see how much new transportation revenue comes out of the tax plan the Legislature is currently finalizing.
A release of half the funds means communities will see a 25 percent cut from the Chapter 90 money they received last year, instead of the 50 percent increase they were planning on, at least for now.
Chapter 90 is the state's bond-funded program, reimbursing cities and towns for the costs of maintaining, repairing and building municipal roads and bridges.
Earlier this week, the Senate Republican Caucus delivered a letter to the governor's office, calling on Patrick to release the full $300 million. The letter said the partial release delays much-need repairs and forces communities to decide "whether to build half a bridge in the hopes that you will authorize the full amount."
"The governor filed a bill containing $300 million and the Legislature approved that bill," said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, a Gloucester Republican. "Now it's time to honor those terms and move forward on the one funding item everyone has agreed on, and continue debate, discussion and negotiations on the things on which we haven't agreed."
The original road-repair funding increase was backed by every member of the House and Senate, although Patrick had indicated the $300 million might not be feasible without a higher tax hike than the Legislature wanted.
In Fitchburg, Department of Public Works Commissioner Lenny Laakso said a host of projects will be stalled.
"I haven't seen it happen this way before," he said. "The last couple of years we've been delayed, but this is the first time that I've seen them cut everybody's allocation."
Among the projects that will be delayed are a pavement surface treatment program that was to target some of the city's worst roads. Improvements scheduled for Wallace Road will be put on hold, as well.
The city has also had to postpone the purchase of a dump truck.
"It's very disappointing because a lot of our streets are in poor condition and we rely on that money to get them in as good condition as we can," said Laakso. "We're hoping the governor and legislature will get that money out to us."
Follow Katie Lannan on Twitter @katielannan. Follow Chris Camire at @camirereports.