Meeting Minutes of the Select Board

 Location:  Town offices Date:  January 20, 2022  
 Opened:    7:00 pm Adjourned: 8:50 pm  

Select Board: Andrea Hodson, Kathy Scott, Andrew Maneval______________________

 Attendees:Road Agent Wes Tarr, Police Chief Mike Tollett, Fire Chief Wayne Derosia, Emergency Management Director Jeff Cady, Treasurer Anne Havill, Finance Coordinator Amy Roberts, Town Clerk Cathy Lovas, Conservation Commission Chair Harry Wolhandler, Pegg Monahan, Erin Hammerstedt, Don Scott, Christopher Jackson, Katie Hamon, Janice Jackson

Budget Hearing
The Select Board presented its proposed Operating Budget for 2022. Board Chair Andrea Hodson gave an overview, including proposed Warrant Article items, after which the board reviewed each cost center/department and responded to questions from attendees.

The total proposed operating budget at this time is $1,456,615, an increase of $92,157 over 2021. This total includes an estimated unused amount between $170,000-$180,000 to be returned to the town from the 2021 budget. It also includes a proposed employee COLA of 3%, investments in facilities upkeep, police department updates, increased vendor, utility and heating fuel costs. It does not include the Warrant Articles.

This year’s Warrant Articles encompass contributions to the Capital Reserve Funds, two road projects, contingency funds for the highway dump truck, and a new police department cruiser.

The board noted that an increase in General Government cost center is due to greater investment in facilities upkeep in town properties. Jeff Cady reviewed planned maintenance or repair work at the Recycle Center, the Old Fire Station, the Old Highway Garage, the painting of the library steeple, window replacement at the Fire Department, and a mini-split for the SB office.  Much of this work involves incremental improvements to town facilities, plans for which remain undetermined.

The proposed increase in the Cemetery budget is for new gates at the Island Street cemetery as well as a new scatter garden.

The Insurance Policies increase is due to a 15% premium increase from HealthTrust, which will begin in July 2022, when the town renews its policy for eligible employees. Traditionally the town has paid 90% and employees have paid 10%. Following research from around state, which shows most cost-sharing is at a ratio of 80/20 or 85/15, the SB is considering how to adjust the percentage so the burden of the increase can be shared fairly. The board currently believes it may go to 85/15 effective July 1; however the current budget proposal shows 90/10.

For the Police Department budget, an increase of $28,739 reflects updates to department computers and radio equipment and training. The board and the Police Chief explained how Detail pay works and is accounted for. A Warrant Article to establish a revolving fund for this police revenue is being drafted.

Ms. Hodson noted the SB may have to revisit the Ambulance Service line as our current provider was recently purchased by the county, which is raising rates. The increase will be partially absorbed by the County through the use of GOFERR funds, resulting in a more gradual ramp up in costs to the town. Andrew Maneval and Andrea Hodson will follow up with Chris Coates on the specifics of this.

Fire Chief Derosia confirmed that the only increase in the Fire Department budget is due to a required upgrade in their computer software system.

Overall, the Highway Department budget comes in at slightly less than last year, partly because expenses for culverts will be offset with ARPA funds. The Road Agent has anticipated higher diesel expenses, and the SB noted it has automatically added a 60% increase to all utility lines in the budget and 50% to all heating fuel lines. The board awaits a definite from Eversource next week.

Under Health Agencies, the Police Chief requested that the board consider a larger contribution to MCVP, the Monadnock Center for Violence Prevention, though it was noted that all proposed contributions to health agencies are in the amounts each organization requested.

The Streetlight increase is due to higher utility costs and to fixture repair costs.

Warrant articles / financial
The board proposes to contribute a total of $175,000 to the Capital Reserve Funds, broken down as follows: $100,000 Road equipment; $20,000 Fire equipment; $5,000 Town buildings; $5,000 Bridges; $5,000 dams; $30,000 Roads; $5,000 gravel pit; and $5,000 Revaluation (2023).

Following a question from Treasurer Anne Havill and input from the Police Chief, the Board noted it will consider adding to the Police Equipment CR fund as well. A portion of the Warrant Article appropriation for the police vehicle will come from this CR fund.

Proposed Warrant Article funding for road projects includes: $87,500 to pave Mason Road (the second part of the project partially funded in 2021); $73,900 for Sunset Hill Road; $50,000 for the Highway Dump Truck and $61,153 for a new Police Department Cruiser.

The board and Road Agent explained that the proposed $50,000 is a contingency fund for repairs and parts, given the age of the highway dump truck and the likely unavailability until late 2023 or early 2024 of a new vehicle. The $100,000 Warrant Article for a new dump truck would thus be a layaway for this delayed purchase.

Other business
Following the close of the public hearing on the proposed budget, the SB took up its regular business:

Meeting minutes of January 13 – deferred to give members time to review.

Pay warrant – signed in the amount of $164,716.88.

Office copier – Following review and discussion of purchase and lease options, the SB moved and voted in favor to purchase a new office copier from WB Mason at a cost of $3,700, an item which is proposed in the equipment and maintenance line of the 2022 operating budget and contingent upon the approval of the budget at Town Meeting.

Town Meeting – The board discussed logistics and location with the Town Clerk, who will reach out to the School Board about use of satellite classrooms, in addition to the gymnasium at Wells Memorial, to provide the safest possible venue for all.  The School Board meets Monday, January 24, when it will decide on our application to hold Town Meeting at the facility.

Separately, the board resumed discussion with the Town Clerk on a possible Warrant Article allowing the SB to separate dates for elections and town meeting. No decision made.

EAC / energy supply – The EAC is closely following and wants to alert the town to Eversource’s communication to municipalities about possible outages in the event of excess demand on the electricity supply. EMD Jeff Cady will provide input to the board based on available information.

EMD – Mr. Cady noted he registered with SWRPC to update our hazard mitigation plan. He anticipates a series of meetings with them in mid to late summer.