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Fire department budget sees minimal increase


January 13, 2010
SANBORNTON — Having asked department heads to join them in working toward a flat budget, so far the selectmen are seeing success in their request.

Last Wednesday they met with Fire Chief John DeSilva to review his budget. DeSilva said that equipment maintenance would have a definite impact on his budget next year.

"Engine 2 is a money pit. That truck is costing us a lot of money," he told the board.

The 1989 vehicle has rust issues and so far this year has cost $5,000 in repairs. CIP has made a recommendation to replace the vehicle with a new tanker and move Engine 2 to the Chapel Station where it might not get as much wear and tear.

It was further recommended to take $18,000 from the Capital Reserves Fund for equipment, a move that CIP member Jeffrey Jenkins said was appropriate since EMTs help to fund the reserve with ambulance calls.

Looking through the Emergency Management portion of the fire department's budget, selectmen began making some cuts to try to level-fund the department and see to the equipment needs.

Money in the form of $1,000 set aside for a still-vacant Deputy Emergency Management position was removed, leaving it as an open line with $1 in the budget. While DeSilva said that it would be ideal to fill the position, he has been functioning as the Emergency Management Director for some time now and the position could be held off for better times.

"If we aren't going to use it, then put it (the deputy director money) into the vehicle maintenance line. We can shift it if we need it," he said.

Whittling away at no longer needed expenses in that section of the budget, selectmen were able to come up with an additional $3,267 saved.

Chairman Andrew Livernois asked that they "split the baby" and put some of the savings into Vehicle Equipment and Repair when DeSilva cautioned them that, besides the woes of Engine 2, the head gasket on his vehicle would also be requiring replacement in the near future. The end result after the cuts and rearrangements of finances was a budget of $314,808, only $767 higher than last year.

Supervisor of the Checklist Sheila Dodge prefaced her budget proposals by saying she hoped to get an increase in pay for election committee members. Dodge apologized for the request in this economic time, but pointed out that Supervisors of the Checklist did not fall under previous raises to town employees and were asking only $2.50 more than they made in 1989. She was able to make some reductions in the data entry position in her budget, but did request that pay for the three upcoming elections and Town Meeting be raised from $5.36 per hour to $7.35, a pay similar to positions in Tilton and Northfield.

Selectman David Nickerson agreed that it had been a long time without an increase for the positions, but the board opted to take the pay raise under advisement and report back to her on their decision.

In presenting his budget, Town Planner Robert Ward advised selectmen that Sanbornton was below other local communities in their building permit fees. A minor subdivision currently costs $150 for a permit, while a major subdivision is $100 for the first two lots and $50 for each additional lot in the subdivision.

"Some towns use it (permits) as a revenue stream and some use it as a deterrent to growth," Ward said of he higher local rates.

Livernois agreed that the time had come to raise the fees, saying it was overdue and appropriate. The board asked for a formal proposal for an increase to the fee schedule to be written up by the Planning Board and brought back to them for consideration.

Jeffrey Jenkins of the Capital Improvements Plan Committee announced to the board that the committee had made a decision at its last meeting to recommend replacement of the Town Garage.

"We've been looking at this since 2006. Time has finally caught up to us," Jenkins said.

Engineering reports have told them that the cement in the building had deteriorated and the building was in dire need of replacement. Issues with bringing equipment in and out of the building, storage of new equipment to protect the investments already made in their purchase and the general comfort of the workers has already been an ongoing discussion with Town officials.

"We could get a good bond rate and a good price from a contractor. This is the time to do it to get a good bang for our buck," said Jenkins.

Jenkins said it was important to start thinking about this expenditure and start thinking about how the town wanted to proceed with the matter. The $1.1 million proposed bond, spread out over a 10-year pay back period, could possibly be upped slightly with demolition and site work he advised, but there were areas costs might be contained.

Agreeing that the building needed replacement, Livernois said it was the price that "gave him heartburn."

Selectmen discussed ways to possibly save on costs by moving a cold storage building onto the back of the heated garage and other options that could save money in the long run. The discussions will continue on the matter at a later date as DPW's budget is reviewed and warrants are drafted.

In an earlier non-public session selectmen agreed to the promotion of police Sergeant Kevin McIntosh to fill the vacancy of lieutenant, left open by the recent promotion of Stephen Hankard from lieutenant to the town's new police chief. McIntosh began his career with the New Hampton police in 2002 and has been with the Sanbornton Police Department since 2005. His swearing in ceremony will take place on Jan. 13 during the selectmen's meeting.

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