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Staffing, service cuts on the horizon in Berlin

May 12, 2010
BERLIN — The council spent two nights last week going over the budget, preparing for the public hearing on May 26. Two things are clear: there isn't enough money, and the cuts are going to be tough.

Both the fire department and the public works department are looking at loosing personnel, and the council opted against making any adjustments to those departments' budgets that would change things.

"Funding it now is not the right time," said Mayor Paul Grenier, referring to adding two personnel to the fire department. "If we don't have the money we can't do it."

Councilor Mark Evans said he'd like to see the fire department change drastically to reduce costs.

"I would like to see us begin the transition to a pay per call fire department," he said, similar to what they have in Littleton.

Mayor Grenier said taxpayers would see a rise in their insurance costs that would offset any tax savings if the department made that sort of change.

Councilor Tom McCue said he wants to see the same number of personnel there next year as are working this year. He called anything less "flat out dangerous."

Mayor Grenier said perhaps in June if the money shows up the council can consider making changes to the budget that would reinstate these positions, but not before they know they have the funding.

The city would eliminate two public works positions, though one is currently vacant.

The council considered adding money to the recreation and parks department budget, but they weren't ready to do it last week.

"Government should do something for athletics," Mayor Grenier said. In all, he said, he would be looking for about a $12,000 increase in the department budget, he said, including $5,000 for youth hockey ice time at the Notre Dame Arena.

Mayor Grenier is on the board of directors at Notre Dame Arena.

The library was one of the few departments the council voted to increase a line item on, although the expense was offset by health insurance savings.

The council created a line item for audio books and funded it with $1,663. The lack of audio books was raised by Councilor David Poulin, who was frustrated that residents currently have to go to the Gorham Library if they want them.

The audio books were just one example, he said; cuts in the budget for books and periodicals would result in a significant reduction in materials.

"We can't have less of a product than Gorham," he said. "What are we getting for this money?"

Mayor Grenier agreed. "That is an embarrassment, by the way," he said, referring to sending people to Gorham for audio books.

The library had sent a letter to the council outlining measures to reduce per diem staffing and increase the book and periodicals budget, but Councilor Poulin said he wanted more done, particularly reducing labor expenses.

Klumb Environmenta;
Varney Smith
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