ethlehem Board of Selectmen
January 15, 2018
Present: Chairman Moritz, Selectman Boisseau, Selectman Ubaldo, Selectman Moore, Selectman Glavac.
Chairman Moritz opened the meeting at 6:04 pm.
Chief Ho-Sing-Loy came before the Board to do a presentation on the police department. He went through a slideshow that explained the mission and goals of the police department. He said he wants a proactive department versus a reactive department. The Chief went over all the training the officers need and went over the list of calls for service they received over the year. Rita Farrell said in Wilmington Delaware they had cut back on police to save money in the budget and they are now known as murder city. Cheryl Jensen asked the Chief the price difference for the pick-up truck versus an SUV. Chief Ho-Sing-Loy said the truck is not much more than the explorers and said the additional cost was internal stuff. He said the mileage per gallon is comparable. He also said it is convenient to move stuff around with it and also the trailer that can store stuff like cones etc.
At 6:50 Chairman Moritz opened the budget hearing and read the notice. She explained they do not follow Roberts Rules so asked that people not call out call of order. She said it is the chairman’s job of running the meeting and if need be wave hand to signal her.
Chairman Moritz said overall the budget is a little less than last year’s budget. Mrs. Farrell asked the basis for increasing salaries. Chairman Moritz said they are 3% this year and merit based. It was explained there is an increase in the executive budget in the computer line due to the update in the emails and software.
Julian Czarny asked about the GIS additional cost that we now have to pay yearly. Chairman Moritz said it is a system that will save money over time.
There was discussion about the legal budget being flat to last year. Jerry Blanchard asked about the $21,192 that was spent on Northern Pass and asked if they would be budgeting anything for Northern Pass for 2018. Chairman Moritz said it is not too late to put in a warrant article for it but said she thinks it should be separate warrant article to see if people want to spend money on legal for Northern Pass. Cheryl Jensen said along with Sandy Laleme they spent a lot of time working on Northern Pass testimony etc. She said it was good to have an attorney when they did but after a certain point it didn’t really matter as much plus it was prolonged until December. She also said it will end up being challenged and she doesn’t think the town needs to get involved in that. Sandy Laleme said she wouldn’t suggest a warrant article and said all testimony is entered. She also said Bethlehem was good at latching on and asking for help.
Mrs. Laleme asked if there was enough in the legal budget if they need legal representation for the potential abatement. She said the budget doesn’t have extra in it so it would be hard to pull from other department budgets. She said they may have to get into the unassigned fund balance with state approval. Chairman Moritz said it made more sense to keep it where it is. She said part of 2017 money spent was to prepare for the potential abatement. Mrs. Farrell asked if NCES has said they want to pay less in taxes. Chairman Moritz said they haven’t filed an abatement and haven’t asked for any money back yet. She said they have until March 1st to file an abatement. Mrs. Farrell asked if it is due to space left and was told by Chairman Moritz no, that it was based on tipping fee. She said they (NCES) have offered 2017 information and said the Board requested more years. Fire Chief, Jack Anderson, said the department heads have no cushion and said they have cut their budgets so that if there were a major event it would put them over budget. He said he doesn’t agree that legal should have a “cushion” because no other department has one. Chairman Moritz said every department does a great job and said she doesn’t think legal budget should have a cushion either. She said they need to be prepared but agrees they don’t need a cushion and believes they have a good plan.
Chairman Moritz said the increase in Planning/Zoning is due to salary and said it is very difficult to replace employees. Selectman Moore said they need to be competitive to keep employees.
There was a question about the out of district fire hydrants in the GGB (General Governmental Buildings) budget. Chief Anderson said some of the hydrants are Littleton Water lines. Chairman Moritz said she will look into it. Clare Brown said they only spent $1000.00 in cemetery maintenance this year due to the wet spring/summer. She said they need to work on the stones.
There was discussion about the health and dental insurance being taken out of department budgets and put in the insurance budget. Mrs. Laleme said the budgets that show a decrease should say it is because of the insurance being taken out. She said she wants to know what budgets actually went up or down. It was explained it and was done this way due to confidentiality laws and was recommended to do it this way due to some departments having only 1 employee with benefits. Chairman Moritz said it is a transition year and will call out to clarify and will provide % not factoring in insurance.
The police budget was explained to have an increase due to hiring the additional officer. Mr. Blanchard asked how the salaries for the officers compare to other departments. Chief Ho-Sing-Loy said they are on lower end for Chief but the officers are coming close to where we need to be. Selectman Glavac said the Board has continued to close the pay gap and said the Chief came up with a schedule based on performance and training. Mr. McGrath asked if the Board would consider a warrant article for 24 hour coverage. Selectman Glavac said the Board hasn’t discussed it and said it is the expectation of the town and they are used to it. He said the Chief is working towards it all the time. Chief Ho-Sing-Loy said in 2016 they lost 4 officers which is more than 50%. He said they only had 3 officers from August 2016 until April 2017. He explained how he had issues because the officers couldn’t take vacation time. He said a lot of hours were not covered due to that and said he worked over 600 hours in OT himself to cover. Mike Culver said he has always supported the police and said to cut the tax rate by $1.00 you will need to cut $250,000 from the budget. He said that would be a lot of services to cut. Chairman Moritz asked the Chief how long they recommend you keep a cruiser. The Chief said 2 -3 years to get money out of them at the end. He said they put 100 miles on them a shift.
There was discussion about the dispatch budget that is down and what determines the cost. Chief Anderson said it is not based on fixed fee so depends on other towns that also use the dispatch service.
Road Agent, Brett Jackson said his budget is down $9000.00+. He said he needs to put $80,000 into the capital reserve every year for a truck because the trucks are big money. He said the trucks should last 10 years but he has been pushing them further than that.
Selectman Glavac said when reviewing budgets they talked about moving some expenses from the Rec general fund budget to the rec revolving budget. He said they will follow up with Tim (Rec Director) on that.
David McDonald asked why the library budget didn’t have line items like other budgets. Doug Harman said by federal law the Board of Directors can decide how to spend the money. He said voters can vote on $ amount. He said at the deliberative he will have more information available. Carol Kerivan asked if by federal law they can’t provide information. She said the school budget is the same thing but they provide the information. She said she has been asking this for years. Mr. Harman said it is also in the annual report every year. Cheryl Jensen asked if there was any reason it couldn’t be available for the budget hearing and was told no there wasn’t. Mr. Harman said he went line item by line item with the Select Board at a public meeting. He also said the information is available at the library.
Chairman Moritz said the country club finished phase 5 of the electrical work. Chairman Moritz said it was a tough season for the country club weather wise. Mrs. Laleme said the painting was on the list for the prisoners to do and said you only need to provide the supplies. She was told we are on the list but they had to cancel last year due to lack of inmates. Mrs. Laleme said the Board has done as good a job as can do on expenditures but revenues is just a projection and they are down. Chairman Moritz said she looked at the decrease last year which was 9%. She said they need to have fund healthy to offset the increases. She said the Board has planned for the potential abatement. Mrs. Laleme said there is $500,000 in uncollected taxes and that affects the tax rate also. She said it will be an issue for people to pay their taxes.
The Board reviewed the warrant articles. There was discussion about the warrant article to create a capital improvement plan committee. Chairman Moritz said the article is written as the RSA is stated. Chief Anderson said he thinks it is a good idea but make sure you get the committee right and give them good direction.
There was discussion about the KENO warrant article. Mary Lou Krambeer asked if the warrant article could explain more about what KENO is. Chairman Moritz said they can inform people what it is but cannot include it in the warrant article.
There was discussion about the wording on the country club warrant articles.
Chris Jensen asked if the title could be changed on warrant article #25 that he submitted. He asked that “Requiring a” be added to the beginning of the title. The Board agreed to make the change.
Mr. Blanchard pointed out that warrant article #22 has a typo and is missing a zero.
At 9:00 pm Chairman Moritz closed the public hearing. Selectman Glavac seconded. Carried 5-0.
The Board discussed a timber tax abatement for 401/19 for $638.48. Chairman Moritz moved to approve the abatement. Selectman Glavac seconded. Carried 5-0.
Chairman Moritz said they received the requested information from the Ammonoosuc River Advisory Group. Chairman Moritz moved to approve the $50.00 request. Selectman Moore seconded. Carried 5-0.
At 9:05 Chairman Moritz moved to adjourn. Selectman Boisseau seconded. Carried 5-0.