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The Cheshire Town Council continued its journey through the $95.9 million operating budget this week, poring over the water pollution control department, public works department, and library in great detail.
Treatment Plant Superintendent Dennis Dievert was on hand to explain the approximately $3 million budget that is proposed to increase nearly $60,000 next fiscal year. Around $600,000 of the budget is comprised of salaries, with the majority of the rest of the money being spent on chemicals to treat and analyze what flows through the plant. Town Manager Michael Milone explained that there was a $10,000 increase in the overtime budge as it had been ratcheted back last year, but, with recent storms and power failures, workers were required to be on call. Also, two employees had formerly worked Saturdays and Sundays to make sure the plant was functioning properly, but Divert rolled that back to one employee each day and stated that he could not cut back any further.
"The Department of Environmental Protection won't let us get rid of weekend coverage," Dievert explained. "We had two people on, now it's only one, but the power failures are what really drives overtime."
Additionally, two workers retired last year as part of an incentive the Town offered to help alleviate the operating budget pressures, but Dievert also hired a part time electrician who he said has been a "great asset" for the department. The electrician works 20 hours a week and, according to Dievert, he has already identified, troubleshot, and fixed a two-page list of items that normally would have been outsourced or put off entirely.
Dievert explained that the plant has also been working to control costs by limiting the amount of tonnage that gets hauled off-site to negate skyrocketing prices, as well as purchasing chemicals through a consortium each month to get the best possible price for the Town.
Also, as part of the Water Pollution Control Department budget, Milone proposed raising the sewer user fee $15, up to $330 annually. While the overall budget would increase from 2009 levels, Milone said that, in fact, it would still be $160,000 lower than it was in 2008.
During the meeting, the Council also discussed the $5 million Public Works budget, which is increasing by approximately $100,000. About $1.7 million on the budget is made up of salaries, but most of the money is from contractual services, such as road repaving and water main service. Bulky waste pick up was removed from the budget last year and is not funded again in the budget. Department of Public Works Director Joseph Michelangelo said goals for the department included continuing drainage projects and road work, as well as work on other projects such as the Dodd Middle School kitchen renovation, and bridge and culvert repairs.
The other department Council heard from Monday night was the library, which had a handful of supporters in the audience. The $1.4 million budget is increasing by $31,000. As part of the operating budget, Milone said a position could be eliminated at the library, which he said he would discuss with the Council in an executive session.
Library Director Ramona Harten explained that circulation is up at the library, despite being open fewer hours. Also, the library secured a grant to install a radio frequency identification system, which would help automate check out and free up staff time, which Harten named as a major goal for next year. Outside of salaries, the driving force behind the budget is program materials and book purchases, which the library makes each year.
The Council plans to continue its department by department review of the budget tonight, at 6:30 p.m. in Town Hall, where topics of discussion will include the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Community Pool, Youth and Social Services Department, and Senior Services.
A public hearing on the budget is slated for Monday, April 5, and the Council plans on adopting the budget on April 13.