Vassalboro selectmen wrestled with the 2019-2020 municipal budget for three hours at their Feb. 21 meeting. They concluded they were ready to forward it to the budget committee, whose members will review the selectmen’s figures before a final budget goes to voters at the annual town meeting in June.
The first budget committee meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 5. On Thursday, March 7, the selectmen meet at 6 p.m. and the budget committee at 7 p.m., the latter to begin discussions with town department heads. Interested residents are welcome at all three meetings.
Representatives of the town Public Works Department and the volunteer fire department attended the Feb. 21 selectmen’s meeting to talk about their budget requests.
Among the many public works topics covered were paving plans for this summer; repairs to a large culvert on Cross Hill Road, currently on hold while the state Department of Environmental Protection reviews the situation; planned vehicle repairs and replacements; adding a half-time employee, who might also work half-time at the transfer station; and how to make Foreman Eugene Field’s computer talk to his copier.
At a future meeting, selectmen intend to discuss sidewalks, in relation to the state’s planned rebuilding of Route 32 (Main Street in East and North Vassalboro). Board Chairman Lauchlin Titus said the most recent proposed date for the project is 2021 or 2022.
Board members want to consider the need for sidewalks in both villages, including the possibility of asking that the existing North Vassalboro sidewalks be eliminated. Titus, who lives in North Vassalboro, said they are not used much.
Selectmen made one unanimous decision on public works, authorizing Field to buy a new power washer from Motor Supply out of the current year’s budget without going through a bid process. Field presented five price quotes and expressed his preference for Motor Supply.
Another budget topic was salary increases for town employees, which have fallen below comparable averages in the Maine Municipal Association’s salary survey. Titus remembered that a few years ago, selectmen chose a three-year plan to bring salaries up; by the end of the three years, enough other towns had increased theirs to leave Vassalboro again toward the low end of the scale. A decision was postponed for discussion with the budget committee.
Solid waste management, another major budget item, was not ready for discussion, because bids for hauling trash are not due until Feb. 28. This year’s bid documents invite bidders to propose alternative hauling methods to the 50-yard containers the town now uses, making costs potentially more variable than usual. Town Manager Mary Sabins said two bids had already been received.
Police Chief Mark Brown hopes for a new vehicle, as the current one needs frequent repairs, Sabins said. Selectmen tentatively planned to buy a new vehicle, financing it over three years, and to reduce Brown’s recommended repair budget for next year.
Board member John Melrose proposed a brand-new expenditure: $1,000 to refurbish the memorial in East Vassalboro as “a centerpiece” for observances celebrating the town’s 250th anniversary in 2021.
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