CHESTER – The board of selectmen and budget committee met recently to help iron out some of the kinks they’ve historically struggled with during budget season, and by the end of their Thursday, Jan. 9 meeting, the boards were confident they had the signposts set.
The selectmen took most of the meeting to review some of the smaller departments’ budgets, and hope to be done with their review by Jan. 21, with the budget to the committee soon after.
Budget committee chair Rhonda Lamphere told the selectmen that her committee was OK with not having the warrant articles in their final form when they were set to discuss them, as long as they had a solid idea of what the selectmen and departments were seeking. The budget committee has historically been troubled with the amount of time they have to review warrant articles.
The two groups are looking to March 13 to discuss the warrant articles together.
Selectman Jack Cannon noted that he would be looking to slim down the warrant from articles that are passed every year with little to no discussion. Cannon noted the oftentimes very long warrant and suggested the board would be looking to put some of the annual articles into the budget. For example, the police department wants to put its annual funding of half the cost of a cruiser into the budget, as it’s a sum that is approved easily year after year and is considered by the department as an operational necessity.
In budgets last week, the selectmen reviewed a host of small numbers as well as their executive budget. While the sum of the executive budget was not stated, selectmen agreed it would need further work.
The board approved the supervisors of the checklist budget at a gross expense of $16,324.
The welfare budget’s working gross proposal is $22,050, up only slightly from the current year’s number. Also up slightly is the community services line at $26,600, but selectmen had concerns about how much was going to a couple of the organizations, particularly the Cooperative Alliance for Regional Transportation (CART). Cannon sought more information on its usefulness for residents, considering its $6,000 cost.
Cannon also had concerns about the Village Cemetery’s current budget and proposal.
Chair Steph Landau said he had told the cemetery trustees not to come to the meeting, a decision that proved irksome to Cannon. Cannon noted that the trustees were asking for more in their salary line, but have shown no responsibility in working within what the town appropriates for them there. According to Cannon, the trustees have spent nearly their entire salary line only six months into the fiscal year.
Cannon called their lack of sticking to the number “wrong.”
“They have a ton of money to do it (cemetery work), but the salaries keep getting blown out. And now they’re blown out six months into the year,” said Cannon.
Landau said he would ask the trustees to attend a future meeting to discuss the matter, and the budget was not further reviewed.
In other business:
• Selectman Rich LeBlanc let the board know that Skillings and Sons Inc., would soon be drilling another well at the Community Center at Wason Pond. LeBlanc and maintenance man Tony Amato have been struggling with high bacteria levels at the well recently, issues the town has faced since the well was drilled in 2009. While Skillings and Sons recently placed a sleeve inside the well to seal the casing from groundwater contamination, the effort hasn’t worked as planned and the well is still not testing clear.
Because there was supposed to have been a longer casing installed in the well from the start, Skillings will be drilling another well just feet from the old one and placing the requisite amount of casing. The project will be done at no cost to the town. If the well is successful, the firm will look to connect the new well to the current lines into the building.
The selectmen had approved $2,700 in November for the extended sleeve.