SPECIAL BOARD OF FINANCE MEETING
FEBRUARY 28, 2020
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MINUTES APPROVED 3-10-2020
Attendance: Chair John Grabowski, Sharon Huxley, Katie Erickson, Sally Huyser, John Ford and Lars Demander
Also in attendance: First Selectman Paula Cofrancesco, Finance Director Sheila Lane
Visitor: Barbara Schellenberg (left at 5:30p.m.)
1. Chair John Grabowksi called the Special Meeting of the Board of Finance to order at 4:04p.m. The meeting was held in the Selectmen’s Conference Room of the Bethany Town Hall.
2. DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE ACTION ON PARKS & RECREATION VAN REPLACMENT
Discussion was held on the current condition of the Parks & Recreation van and options for replacement. Director of Parks & Recreation, Janice Howard, distributed a handout to members present with regard to the current status of the van, i.e. its condition and what it is used for. A used van has been found in New York, but there are no guarantees as to how long it will be available. That van would cost approximately $19,000.00, with a $5,000 donation toward purchase confirmed from Laticrete, with a potential additional contribution from the Bethany Athletic Association. If the New York van is sold in the meantime, the cost for another replacement van could cost more. Janice Howard and Nick Poulmas have investigated other vans and currently the prices range from $24,000-$34,000. Sean Warner at Public Works has fixed one item on the current van, which needed prompt attention – he replaced an ABS sensor. If the van dies and does not get replaced, a rental van could cost $85/day, or using B and B Transportation could cost $65/hr.
Following discussion, Katie Erikson made a motion, seconded by Sharon Huxley to send the matter to the Board of Selectmen to act on the recommendation to authorize the expenditure of up to $34,000.00 from the General Fund to purchase a multi-passenger van for the Parks and Recreation Department.
3. PRESENTATIONS: DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE ACTION ON DEPARTMENT BUDGETS FOR THE 2020-2021 FISCAL YEAR
A. Parks and Recreation Department: Made note of the fact that Anthony Cofrancesco’s salary was now moved on to the same line as the Director’s salary. A 3% increase has been included. Office expenses were slightly over budget at this time for the current fiscal year (19-20) because of new Annex supplies. If the van gets replaced, both the Summer Camp and Maintenance line items will be reduced ($14,000 and $4,000, respectively). It was discussed to add the Harvest Festival as its own line item, with a budget of $15,000 based on previous revenues and expenditures. Another item for discussion: sand for the beach at Veterans Memorial Park. Either Janice or Tony Ciarleglio (Acting DPW) will check into this. Also needing to be checked – the condition of the playground surface next to the Pavilion. The topic of the beavers and their impact was briefly discussed. The dam they have built is ready to cause an overflow. Further discussion on this topic will need to happen regarding how to deal with them.
B. Tax Collector: Fran Doba updated the Board on the status of computer replacements, license agreements and computer network support. The Tax Collector’s budget has three line items that need follow up – the Finance Director will check that things were correctly posted to the right line item.
C. Library: Gayle Bogel, the new Director of the library, introduced herself and gave some highlights of the budget. Ms. Bogel came on board as the new director on January 2, 2020. The library had an unexpected expense in late 2019 when it had to replace the septic tank. Fortunately, the paving for the parking lot and driveway had not been done yet. The library is embarking on a major project to remake the Children’s Room. The library has applied for a matching grant. They have raised $20,000 to date and are seeking $80,000 from the Town. If they do not raise the necessary funds to match the grant, they will lose the grant ($131,000).
D. Bethany Board of Education: Chris Pittenger, Chair of the Bethany Board of Ed, initiated the presentation of the Board’s budget. A handout was provided as a reference to the powerpoint presentation that was given. Chris Pittenger explained what when into the budget development and the areas they used for budget guidance. One of the slides listed 10 driving factors when preparing the budget; salaries and benefits took up approximately 75-80% of the budget. Colleen Murray, Superintendent of Schools, continued the presentation. Ms. Murray noted that they would hopefully be finishing up negotiations with the paraprofessionals soon, and that they would be going from 7 f/t & 7 p/t TO 12 f/t paras. The school is looking to what the needs will be for paras in kindergarten for the 2020-2021 school year. This would have an impact on both salaries and benefits. They are looking to add a special education teacher. Minimum wage will also have an impact on certain members of the staff. Some expenses will be offset by state grants. Bethany has completed a collaborative transportation agreement with Amity and Woodbridge as a shared resource. Recent notification from the insurance companies brought good news of reduced rates for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The budget was originally approved at 2.53%, but with the insurance rates reductions, the board should be approving a revised budget at 1.90%.
E. Department of Public Works: Tony Ciarleglio, Acting Director for the Department, presented some needs for the Department which need to be addressed. Several pieces of equipment are extremely old. It is getting harder, if not impossible, to find replacement parts. Safety has also become an issue when trying to use some of the machines. A priority at this time would be replacement of the guard rail mower. Mr. Ciarleglio indicated that it would be helpful to add a line item for guard rail replacement. Many rails are in place for safety purposes. Weather conditions, age and occasional accidents impact the status of each rail. It has been a relatively mild winter so there has been some savings for snow and ice removal. There was discussion on possibly buying salt during the summer to get a better price. Catch basins have been purchased to get ready for the next phase of the road restoration project. The BETA report will be used to assess some of the work to be done. Public Works is looking at several capital items for replacement.
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F. Dave Merriam, Asst. Lte.: Officer Merriam provided a list of Calls for Service for the 2019 calendar year as an FYI. Officer Merriam noted Bethany’s portion of the salary for the shared trooper with Beacon Falls was coming in at approximately $89,000. There may be need to update some uniforms and equipment for himself and the constables.
G. Sheila Lane presented some items for the Senior Services Department: Sr. Services department is looking to replace and add items for the department: Replace stove, add freezer and add commercial dishwasher. After discussion by the board members, it was recommended to replace the stove, which will require bids; hold on the commercial dishwasher; and look into whether or not the freezer could be purchased in the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
H. Rod White, Fire Marshall and Facilities Director: TOWN HALL: Mr. White updated the Board on the status of the Town generator. Installation of the generator exposed serious shortcomings with the electrical service into and out of the Town Hall building. These have been identified as safety issues by the Building Official, an Eversource electrical engineer and the electrical contractor. The recommendation is to separate the two annex buildings from the Town Hall service to take advantage of the recent service upgrade to the school. Based on these findings, Mr. White notes that this is the most urgent of the capital requests. Estimated total cost for the electrical upgrade would be $70,000.00. Mr. White is looking into an LED lighting upgrade in the Town Hall. This project comes with an Eversource incentive of potentially 50% reimbursement of the expenditure. Additional projects: replace identified non-working radiator steam traps; and replace old pneumatic thermostats with electric. Potential future projects: Town Hall main hall renovation; carpet replacement; office painting; and stage renovation/demolition. PUBLIC WORKS: Mr. White is requesting to add a Public Works maintenance budget line, with a starting amount of $20,000. This would include expenses, such as exterior door replacement, siding repair (current small repair in progress; will evaluate existing unresolved leak); and renovation of men’s bathroom. The DPW crew currently has nowhere to stay during storms when they are required to take off the road and have to stay on the job for an extended period of time. They use make-shift accommodations. Mr. White is recommending that a small addition be attached to the current building. This could be used for meetings as well. He is estimating that the cost of an addition would be approximately $60,000.00. This would include: excavation, foundation, framing, siding, windows, roofing and interior finish. Not sure at this point if LoCIP funds would be available. FIRE HEADQUARTERS: Mr. White noted that the flooring needs to be replaced in the garage area of the building. Cost to remove current flooring and replacement would be approximately $105,000-$110,000.00 (some variables). This cost includes complete removal of the damaged epoxy later and slab and repouring new vapor barrier, and a hardener to change the surface. He noted that if not done in the new fiscal year, approximately $10,000-$15,000.00 would be required for a temporary patching project. Mr. White is also requesting that a Fire House Maintenance budget line be created in the amount of $15,000.00 to streamline miscellaneous repairs. Currently the Town pays all maintenance expenses over $1,000.00. Mr. White mentioned that the Fire Department is looking into a potential future project of an LED lighting upgrade. CENTER STATION: Mr. White is requesting a maintenance budget line for this location.
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I. Fire Department: Rich Cogill, Fire Chief, along with Asst. Chief, Brent Ciccarelli and Deputy Chief Matt Hubbard presented the Fire Department budget. Chief Cogill gave an update on the 2019 capital expenditure for the new rescue/pumper – It is in the works and will be awarded to a vendor soon. He noted that by consolidating two trucks into one, they saved the tax payers well over $650,000.00. Chief Cogill also thanked the Board and tax payers for supporting the funding to provide daytime staffing for the Ambulance Corp at the firehouse. Chief Cogill presented the department’s 10-year plan for capital items. The needed items for the coming 2020-2021 fiscal year include: a utility vehicle ($85,000) (which he noted was pushed off by the BOF for three years) and a command vehicle ($55,000). Total expense for these two items would be $140,000.00. Two additional items on the 10-year plan list, which are slated for 2022-23 and 2023-24, are mandated items: The replacement of a SCBA Bottle fill station and SCBA Bottles and air packs. These may need to be addressed sooner rather than later.
J. First Selectman’s Budget: First Selectman Cofrancesco, along with Sheila Lane, the Finance Director, presented some highlights of the Selectman’s budget. First Selectman Cofrancesco (FSC) will take a pay freeze for 2020-2021. FSC noted that there were several position changes since she started July 1st: Elimination of three full-time positions (positive impact on salaries and benefits). Reassigning some responsibilities to help streamline some jobs. Prioritizing needs vs wants to correct many deficiencies and issues that had been neglected or ignored across the board.
K. Auditor’s report is not finished. Auditor needs to clarify some information in order to complete the audit. Motion to table auditor’s report item on the agenda made by Sharon Huxley, seconded by John Grabowski. Unanimous approval.
At 9:05 p.m., it was moved by Sally Huyser and seconded by Lars Demander to adjourn the special meeting. Unanimous approval.