Town Council Trims Public Works Budget Requests

The Derry Town Council swept a new carpet for the Municipal Center under the carpet and trimmed several requests for overtime in Public Works Director Mike Fowler’s budget request for 2015, but otherwise approved the working budgets for eight of the 10 departments coming under the Public Works umbrella.

Fowler presented his budget at Monday night’s Council budget meeting.

Before Fowler took the microphone, Acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau described several incidents in his own life when public safety institutions made a difference. He told the Council and television audience, “Derry has a bucolic atmosphere, but provides a big-city level of services.”

The “big-city” level of services is being provided through a flat tax rate, he said. “You asked for it, and you got it,” he said. The tax rate will remain at $10.39 per $1,000 if the budget is approved, Budreau said.

Fowler began his presentation with the Highway Department, supervised by Alan Cote. Fowler noted how expenses have gone up, with the department paying $29 per ton for salt in 2006, compared to today’s $56.76; $58.54 in 2006, compared to today’s $75; and $2.45 for diesel fuel in 2006, compared to a current $3.35.

“We look at how we can best manage fuel usage,” he said, noting that the town obtains diesel fuel from the state Department of Transportation shed on Kendall Pond Road and the price is locked in through September 2015.

Fowler praised the town’s “pay as you go” policy for road repair and maintenance. “If we do it at the right time, it will cost less,” he said. “Once you let the roads go, it’s two to three times the original cost.”

This budget also includes replacing street lights with energy-efficient LED lamps in conjunction with the Energy and Environmental Advisory Committee, Fowler said.

Fowler said the department wants to replace a sidewalk clearing machine from 1999 with a new model; the money would come from the Department of Public Works Capital Reserve Fund, with no impact to taxpayers.

The Council unanimously approved the Highway request of $3,993,101.

It tweaked the next area, Buildings and Grounds, also supervised by Cote. The original request, presented by Fowler, was $796,548. Fowler said the department is seeking to replace a pick-up truck from 2000, which will no longer pass inspection. The Council approved the $35,000 for the truck, but balked at replacing the rugs on the third floor of the Municipal Center, for $15,000.

“What’s the matter with the carpet? It looks good,” Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores said.

Fowler said the wear-and-tear was beginning to show in the area of the door to the Council chambers, which has the most traffic. “We should replace it before we have a tripping hazard,” Fowler said.

He said the carpet they’re looking at is modular rather than all of a piece, so in the future, worn parts can be removed without replacing the entire carpet.

Council Chairman Mark Osborne declared an impromptu “field trip” to the front of the room, where Councilors examined the carpet. In a roll call vote, they determined to remove the $15,000 from the working budget.

The Council also voted to reduce the overtime line from $15,000 to $13,000. The final number they approved was $779,548 for Buildings and Grounds.

Fowler presented the Cemetery budget. Osborne and Councilor Al Dimmock questioned the need for a new mower and the expense of the mower presented by Cote at $8,775. Osborne said, “Didn’t we buy a mower last year?”

They did, Cote said, but that was an unusual occurrence. “It doesn’t usually happen two years in a row,” he said.

The one he’s planning to replace was bought in 2000, Cote added.

Dimmock questioned the price and Cote responded that this is a professional-grade mower and not one suitable for a private hoe. “It has a 23 HP Kawasaki engine, larger tires, a heavier chassis, a heavier drive train, and much more longevity,” he said. “One from a big-box store will only last us a couple of seasons.”

“I still don’t see the difference,” Dimmock said.

Cote offered to show him the machines, side by side.

The Council agreed to “flag” the item until they had more information.

Osborne also questioned a line item for road repair, noting, “I don’t see the roads falling apart. It’s not as if there was a lot of heavy equipment in there.”

Fowler countered that the middle of the cemetery roads going east was last repaired seven or eight years ago. It’s important to maintain the roads inside the cemetery, he said, because people want to “visit their loved ones” even in winter, and it’s difficult to plow over ruts.

The Council didn’t see it that way and voted 5-2 to eliminate the $25,000 in the budget for road repair. The final Cemetery budget approved by the Council was $232,677.

The Code Enforcement office came next, supervised by Bob Mackey. Fowler presented a budget of $370,637. The Council quizzed Fowler extensively about expanding the part-time Building Inspector position to full time. Fowler said that while Mackey does building inspections, he also is responsible for plan reviews, code enforcement and responding to complaints.

“It’s more than just looking at a building,” he said. The ISO, a national organization that rates fire departments, also rates communities in other areas and has a standard that for communities the size of Derry, the building inspectors should be 2.25 FTEs (full-time employees). “This would give us 2.0,” he said of expanding the part-time position.

“I was on the ZBA (Zoning Board of Adjustment) and I know what Bob goes through,” Dimmock said.

The Council voted 6-1 to approve the Code Enforcement budget of $370,637.

In the Recreation budget they reduced overtime from $13,000 to $5,000 and approved a final working budget of $597,192, 6-1. For Parks they also reduced overtime, from $12,129 to $10,000, and approved a final budget of $915,006.

Overtime in the Transfer Station budget was reduced by $2,765 for a final budget of $1,625,589, which was unanimously approved. The Vehicle Maintenance budget, at $539,297, was unanimously approved.

The Council dismissed at 10:10 p.m. and did not get to the Wastewater or Water budgets. The next budget meeting is April 17 at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Center.