Selectmen Meet on January 26 as Snowstorm Begins and Town Meeting Deadlines Approach

By Joan Bowen

SelectmenThe Selectmen held their regularly scheduled meeting on January 26 but due to the storm, the meeting started at 6pm with an abbreviated agenda.

The meeting opened with the announcement by Bedford’s State Representative Ken Gordon that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has decided to explore other options for the relocation of the salt shed. He congratulated the neighbors of the proposed site and the community as a whole for the work that was done to convince MassDOT to revisit their original plan.  Click here to read the full salt shed story.

Taissir Alani, Director of Facilities, introduced Talal Ali Ahmad, President of Entrada Communications to present the recently completed communications study. The study’s goals were to conduct an audit and evaluate the current town-wide communications system and to propose improvements. In general, the assessment concluded that the network is not reliable, is complicated by multiple vendors and multiple technologies, and uses equipment that cannot support current requirements. This results in high maintenance and repair costs.

The report includes potential solutions and estimates of costs to support decision-making. With the objective of developing a communications system reliable for both daily and public emergencies, the plan is to update the existing fiber optic network. Implementation will be phased. Funding to replace all Town telephone systems is included in the FY16 capital budget at a projected cost of $378,106.

Jon O’Connor presented the Capital Expenditure Committee’s report to the Selectmen. He described changes in the process used to develop his committee’s recommendations. According to O’Connor, the committee had stronger ownership of the process which included more collective thought. Standardized questions were provided to department heads. This year all the department heads met and vetted all requests.

O’Connor also credited the full implementation of the asset management software as a source of data useful to the evaluation of projects and some cost reductions. He referenced the work of Roy Sorenson, Director, Department of Public Works, in developing a six year plan for vehicle replacement. Given the data available, Sorenson was able to develop a six year plan with an annual average cost of $300,000. Selectman Margot Fleischman added her kudos to the value of the asset management software to budget and plan development. The result is a six year plan which provides a better look at what will be needed and when.

Referring to the budget proposal for FY16 distributed in the Selectmen’s packet, O’Connor pointed out that Capital Expenditures proposes a heavier reliance for financing through the tax levy rather than bonding. He closed his comments by indicating that there may be one additional item not on the FY16 list. The School may ask for the addition of funds ($78,750) for a space needs feasibility study. The Selectmen took no action on the capital budget.

A draft copy of the Town Warrant was distributed. There will be 23 articles. Copy will need to be finalized before the mid-February publication deadline. Both the Selectmen and the Finance Committee will need to take positions on articles or vote to wait to provide a recommendation at Town Meeting, in the expectation of additional information before Town Meeting begins on March 23.

Town Manager Rick Reed reviewed the current status of the Selectmen’s discretionary budgets for FY16. The spreadsheet he presented showed that the Operating Budget is currently $32,307 above the FinCom guideline. The foundation for this overage includes the following funding above the department’s guideline.

  • Finance Department $ 2,201 Additional license for mobile data terminal
  • Fire Department $ 6,084 Overtime to cover military leave of one firefighter
  • Town Center $ 2,201 Facilities Revolving Fund for expenses in excess of rent collected
  • Facilities Department $20,000 Establishment of annual roof inspection

In addition, there are three requests for additional funds from department heads. These are labeled “contingencies,” to be funded if the case presented by the department head establishes the value of the incremental cost and funding is identified through reallocation or unanticipated revenue. Two of the three are from the Facilities Department. One is for $11,588 for ongoing painting of Town buildings and the other will provide for a $3,500 stipend for lead maintenance. The latter is already included in a collective bargaining agreement but has not been funded to date.

Sue Baldauf, Director, Youth and Family Services, presented the third request. She advocated for an increase in hours for one position. The objective is to fund a half-time position, previously covered by grants that are expiring. The incremental cost would be $17,424. No action was taken on this request or the other departmental budgets discussed.

Assistant Town Manager Jessica Porter presented the proposed Salary Administration Plan for FY16. The plan is based on an increase of 2.25% over the FY15 compensation schedule. She identified some changes in titles and a limited number of position reclassifications. Porter also commented that an outstanding issue is whether or not the School Nurses will be moved to the School Department budget from the Board of Health.

Planned items for the next meeting of the Selectmen on February 2 will include: Proposed FY 16 Operating Budget recommendation for Selectmen departments; review of the 2015 Annual Town Meeting articles; and, a public hearing for the proposed General Bylaw Amendment relating to Cable TV Committee responsibilities, a petitioner’s article. The meeting adjourned at 8 pm.

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