CHESTER – The general buildings budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, as presented by maintenance man Tony Amato, came in with a bottom line increase of about 16.5 percent.
The board of selectmen made some minor changes to the bottom line, bringing it down a few thousand dollars. And though the board was not unanimous in whether they should create a new part-time position for the department, pending further information they left funding alone in that line too.
Amato, who has been spearheading long overdue maintenance and repair projects in town buildings, proposed a few more for the coming year, explaining much of the increase seen in the proposal.
Amato is looking at replacing the asphalt roof on a portion of the town office complex, a structure he said is over 30 years old and has decayed significantly. That project was tagged at $30,000.
The Chester Public Library is also slated for a roof repair in the proposal, at a cost of $20,000 for the roof and new gutters.
“That roof is just gone. It should have been done last year,” said Amato, noting the shingles were falling apart.
Smaller increases were seen in lines for groundskeeping – Amato is looking at seeding the newly leveled and raised field behind the municipal building and at improving the area around the town’s Civil War Cannons in the town center at a cost of $2,000 – elevator repairs at Stevens Hall, interior painting at the post office, and interior and exterior painting at the Community Center at Wason Pond.
Increases were also seen in lines that fund the care of buildings at Wason Pond Recreation and Conservation Area and Spring Hill Farm. Per a warrant article vote last year on the latter, the town will be taking over maintenance of Spring Hill in July, and Amato had a list of concerns and a sum of $4,000. But outstanding concerns over work done this year to those buildings had the selectmen discuss bringing in the trustees of the farm to better understand what was needed on both sides.
Selectmen also asked Amato to look more closely at what the town is paying for “pest control” following questions by selectman Jack Cannon. The sum for that service had jumped from $150 in 2013-14 to the current $5,000 proposal in a short period of time.
Pest control was approved at $4,000 this year.
Amato explained that the line item contained funding for $125 per building each quarter to keep things like rodents, bees and termites out of town buildings. Though Amato said the work had made a big difference in town, selectmen asked him to create a Request for Proposal for that service, with needs per building specified, so that they could review those needs and send the service out to bid.
As for the employee request, Amato said that while he currently has a seasonal employee who helps out, because of the way that employee is categorized “seasonal,” he is not allowed to mow or use the larger town equipment.
Amato said that either a part- or full-time employee would be a boon to the department, both because the person would be able to mow lawns and because he was often spread thin in his many responsibilities around town.
“I know I can keep them busy at 30 hours a week,” said Amato.
The board did not comment on the potential positions while Amato was there, but later in the meeting discussed the need.
Only a part timer was discussed by the board, at a cost of $15,000, on top of the $2,550 in the seasonal line.
Landau said he thinks the cost for a part timer would be a wash with what the town was paying the seasonal employee, as no one could determine just where that seasonal employee was being paid from nor how much was being paid.
There is a seasonal employee line in the current year’s budget, at an expense of $2,550, but Landau said he did not think that sum covered the actual expense.
Cannon said he saw no reason for another position in the department, and was in favor of removing any such funding from the budget proposal. He also pointed out that the town could review the rule about seasonal employees not using mowers. He suggested raising the seasonal amount to $5,000 instead.
The board left the money as is, but asked Finance Director Joanne Smith to look further into the seasonal employee’s pay.
During the discussion selectman Joe Castricone suggested bringing up Amato’s pay by $3,000 but Cannon and Landau said it was not the time for that discussion, as it should happen in non-public session.