By Beth David, Editor
The budget process has begun, with the Acushnet Selectboard hearing from the Conservation Agent, Council on Aging Director, and the Department of Public Works Director on Tuesday, 1/8.
Conservation Agent Merilee Kelly asked the board for an additional $5,000 for part time person to help in the pollinator garden. Ms. Kelly has planted an organic flower garden to be a safe habitat area for pollinators such as bufferflies and bees.
The extra money will be used for a part time person, approximately 10 hours a week for the season.
In a follow-up phone interviews, Ms. Kelly said she simply cannot keep up with the weeds by herself. She said the garden is important because it is organic, so it is a safe place for pollinators.
“Because pollinators are in real trouble,” she said.
Ms. Kelly is also hoping to buy a plotter, a large-format printer so the department can print out its own maps and plans.
Town Administrator Brian Noble said he was hoping to find a used one for around $2,000, and it could be used by other departments.
Selectboard member Kevin Gaspar chided Ms. Kelly, saying her numbers in the payroll column were wrong.
She explained that part of her salary comes from the Planning Department, but Mr. Gaspar did not give in, saying it was a waste of time to go over numbers that were not correct.
He said he did not want to have to go over budgets two or three times because things were being left out.
“I don’t like to play that game,” he said.
Ms. Kelly will make some changes and present to the board at a future meeting.
Council on Aging Director Heather Sylvia also asked for a $12,000 increase her in payroll account for additional receptionist coverage.
She told the board that the building is too large for one person to be there alone. Some of the receptionist positions are grant-funded, and have been for years, she said, but she needs to have coverage for all the hours that the building is open to the public.
The buidling is open for 40 hours a week, but reception is only covered for 20 hours.
The energy line item also has an increase, of $1,000 she said.
Other increases are due to regularly scheduled raises.
Dan Menard, the Director of the Department of Public Works spent by far the most time going over his budget. He admitted that he was asking for a lot of money compared to the two smaller departments that preceded him.
His biggest increase, he said was in the Highway Department, because he is planning a lot of new road projects that will require more asphalt, fill, guard-rails and other road materials.
He is hoping to tackle drainage problems on Mendal Road and Hamil Street, which will require extensive work to the catch basins and where they drain.
Mr. Menard is also looking to hire another Water Department worker.
Increases in water payments to New Bedford also contributed to his larger numbers, he said.
Mr. Menard told the board that there has been a “huge increase” in the cost of road materials, but he has not gotten more money in many years.
The board went through some of the line items, such as fuel for vehicles, overtime and other payroll costs.
Mr. Menard said he was told to put together a “reality budget.” He said he would adjust his projects according to what he got.
Materials keep going up he said, using fire hydrants as an example, saying they cost nearly $1000 now.
Recycling showed the biggest increase, reflecting the same problems that all towns are having with the changes in the rules.
Education of town residents has paid off, however, with the town increasingly getting a “B” rating from the hauler, instead of all those “C’s” they were getting.
With a “B” rating, the town pays $108 per ton; with a “C” they pay $150, so there is incentive for taxpayers to recycle properly.
Board members, led by Mr. Gaspar, did ask about having a special heavy item pickup day, instead of having people go to the town barn.
Mr. Menard said the problem with one-day event is that people from out of town take advantage of it.
He said it was “crazy” the amount of stuff that was outside of single homes. The dumpster at the town yard is cheaper and more efficient. Poeple have to show proof of residency to use it.
But the board insisted, and Mr. Menard will include it in his numbers for the next time he meets with teh board.
Mr. Menard also asked for money to upgrade some equipment.
He will also crunch the numbers on using overtime instead of hiring new workers.
Mr. Menard asked to hire two new water department workers, saying he has enough projects to keep them busy. Two workers will be retiring in 5–7 years, which Mr. Gaspar said was a long time out.
Mr. Mendard will rework some numbers and appear before the board at a future meeting to discuss the numbers in more detail.
The board also voted to accept the recommendations from Mr. Noble on fees for entertainment licenses for various establishments, such as bars with jukeboxes or live entertainment.
“I didn’t think it was necessary to gouge,” said Mr. Noble.
The fees are based on categories created by the state. The list is available on the town’s website on the Selectboard page.
Mr. Noble announced that the town received a $6,000 grant for rear-view cameras to be installed on town vehicles. The first will be the COA vans, then the fire engines, then DPW vehicles depending on how far the grant money goes.
In another matter, the board appointed Lisa Leonard to the Community Preservation Committee.
The board also convened in executive session for two matters. One was to discuss strategy in prepapretion for negotiation with non-union personnel.
The other was written as:” Executive Session under G.L. c30A § 21 (a) (1) to discuss the reputation, character, physical condition or mental health, rather than professional competence, of an individual, or discuss the discipline or dismissal of, or complaints or charges against, a public officer, employee, staff member or individual. If the chair so declares and not to return to public session.” Board members would not say which department was involved or answer other questions on the matter.
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