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Bristol cops ask voters for new ride

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Posted on January 23, 2014 |
By Zach Despart



BRISTOL — The Bristol selectboard on Monday discussed budget proposals for the water, sewer and police departments, and inched toward completing a draft of the town budget to put before voters on Town Meeting Day. The board also discussed creating a new zoning district around Bristol Pond.

Police Chief Kevin Gibbs proposed total spending of $365,982 for his department in the fiscal year that begins July 1. The proposal features $332,682 raised by taxes, with the remaining $33,300 coming in the form of contracts with the town and Mount Abraham Union High School, grants, and revenue generated from fines, which is expected to bring in $9,500.

The revenue generated from property taxes represents a 2.88 percent increase from last year. The entire town budget, in its current form, calls for a 2.91 percent tax increase.

In previous years, the department overestimated how much revenue it would generate through fines, Gibbs explained. In 2012-13, it budgeted $18,000 in fine revenue, but only brought it $6,972. For the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, the department budgeted $15,000 in fine revenue, but is on track to take in $7,500.

Gibbs told the board this decrease in income is due to the fact that his officers are spending more time on criminal investigations, specifically drug cases. This means officers are spending fewer hours on patrol. Typically, just one officer is on duty at a time.

The board also discussed the purchase of a new police cruiser to replace an aging vehicle. The department has two cruisers, one of which is replaced every four years. Gibbs suggested amending this schedule to three years, meaning each car would be in service six years instead of eight, as the maintenance costs of the vehicles raise significantly in the seventh and eighth years of service.

Sgt. Randy Crowe provided the selectboard with pricing information for a new police cruiser. He presented several quotes of different models, ranging in cost from $26,000-$30,000. After being outfitted to police specifications, the total cost of a new cruiser would be $35,000.

The board will ask voters to approve the purchase of a new police vehicle on Town Meeting Day. The funds have already been appropriated through previous police budgets.

“Bristol has a tradition of going to voters for big-ticket items,” Town Administrator Bill Bryant said.

Water/Sewer Budget

The proposed water district budget, in its current form, is $255,450, about 1 percent less than last year. The sewer spending plan is pegged at $35,300, a 4.5 percent increase from 2013-14.

The proposed water budget estimates an increase in revenue from water connection service fees. The selectboard had previously approved 15 new connections for co-housing units in town, which is expected to bring in $3,250 over the next few years. The current fee for a water connection is $250.

At the meeting, the selectboard added $2,500 to the water budget, in the form of an expenditure to the capital roads and paving budget. When a water main breaks in town, crews often have to dig up asphalt to fix the pipe. This fee would act as a sort of reimbursement to the town highway department for these spot fixes.

New zoning district

Kris Perlee and Chico Martin of the Bristol Planning Commission presented a new proposal for a new zoning district around Bristol Pond, which would prevent year-round residences from being built on the water.

It would also require vegetation buffers between structures and the water to be preserved.

“The intent is to keep the rustic camp feel,” Perlee told the board.

Any additions to or expansions of existing structures would have to adhere to wastewater regulations. Perlee said the goal of the zoning change is to keep in line with state shoreline protection regulations.

“We’re pleased to come up with something that satisfies both homeowners and conservation needs,” Martin said.

Existing year-round residences would be exempt from the ordinance, as pre-existing, non-conforming structures.

“As long as (structures) are not altered, the current year-round residents will not be affected,” Perlee said.

Budget almost done

In a discussion of the entire municipal budget, the board voted 3-1 to move $95,000 from the highway operating budget to the capital roads reserve fund; Selectman Joel Bouvier was the lone dissenter. This action does not affect taxes or expenditures, but rather allows funds to be carried over between fiscal years.

The end of the fiscal year, June 30, is in the middle of construction season. If funds are in the highway operating budget, they must be used by that date, and new funds must be appropriated for that purpose in the new fiscal year. By putting the funds into the reserve fund, the town can use them as needed, rather than rushing to complete construction jobs before the deadline, Bryant said.

Bryant explained that this will allow the town to spend its limited resources more wisely, and get better deals on construction costs.

“The main thing is, it doesn’t have the one-year, use-it-or-lose-it time constraint,” Bryant said Tuesday.

The selectboard will convene at the town offices in Holley Hall on Monday at 6 p.m., when it plans to complete a town budget proposal in time to warn voters before the March 4 vote.

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