Bristol selectboard zeroes in on 2014-15 town budget

BRISTOL — The Bristol selectboard on Monday heard budget proposals for the landfill, solid waste and fire departments, as the board edged closer to finalizing a 2014-2015 spending plan that it will put before voters for approval in March.
Kris Perlee presented the landfill and solid waste budgets. He estimated that the town landfill, which operates like a business and does not rely on taxpayers, would generate $129,000 in revenue in the fiscal year that begins July 1. Of the proposed budget amount, $99,000 is estimated to be spent, and the remaining $30,000 will be saved to put toward closing the town landfill in the future.
The cost of closing the landfill, one of only two municipal landfills still operating in the state, is estimated to be $1.4 million.
Perlee said the town needs to save $800,000 more to reach that goal. The funds saved so far have been invested in a low-return certificate of deposit with the National Bank of Middlebury. Town Administrator Bill Bryant said that despite the interest, the funds will not keep up with the rate of inflation.
“It makes the money you save shrink,” Bryant said.
The target date for closure of the landfill is 2029, but Bryant said that date could be pushed out further, noting that the annual volume of trash being dumped is below the amount the town is permitted for.
Perlee estimated $43,204 of expenses for the solid waste budget next year. With a projected $14,600 in revenue from recycling and other fees, and a $2,100 Household Hazardous Waste grant from the state, the rest of the budget will be funded by taxpayers.  
Brett LaRose, who was recently elected chief of the Bristol Fire Department, presented the department’s proposed budget. The total spending of $132,836 represents a 3.46 percent increase from the last fiscal year.
LaRose explained to the board that there were two primary reasons for the budget increase. First, the department will now have to pay to use the cell tower located in the center of town to house its repeater, a device that relays calls coming from the dispatch center in Shelburne to firefighters’ radios in Bristol.
Over the last 25 years, LaRose said, a number of service providers owned the tower, and allowed the department to use it free of charge. The new owner, CTI Towers, is charging the department a fee.
The town negotiated with the company to pay $3,090 to use the tower this year, increasing at a rate of 3 percent for the next five years. The department will also have to obtain its own electric meter for the tower, and has estimated the electricity bill to be $35 a month.
LaRose said he expects the fee for dispatch services will be lower in the future. Currently, the department pays $30 per call to the Shelburne Communications Center, which handles dispatches for many departments in Addison County. As the center takes on more clients, such as the recent partnership with Bristol Rescue Squad, the price for each department to use the service will decrease.
The other proposed fire department spending increase is an estimated $1,500 in maintenance to the pumps of the fire apparatus. LaRose said that national standards recommend that pumps should be tested annually, and that regular inspections will lower the Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating for the department, which will in turn lower insurance premiums and save the department money.
LaRose said that the cost of casualty and property insurance are projected to be lower this year.
The chief also proposed that the town pick up half of the cost of new department member uniforms. LaRose said traditionally, the department’s nonprofit entity, the F.W. Munsill Hose Company, has paid for half the cost of a new uniform, and the member is expected to pick up the other half. The uniforms cost several hundred dollars.
LaRose expressed his belief that new members, after volunteering scores of hours to become trained as firefighters, should not be then expected to pay out of their own pockets for their uniform.
“I think it’s long overdue for some compensation for new uniforms,” LaRose said. “I feel very strongly about it.”
Board member Sharon Compagna expressed support for the idea, and the board decided to discuss the topic further at a later meeting.
budget almost done
After the presentations from the departments, the board and Bryant continued their review of the budget. Bryant described the process as “going fairly well,” and said he anticipated the final budget will call for a tax increase of 3 percent.
While the board continues to fine-tune the budget proposal, Bryant could not provide an exact figure. Last year’s budget featured spending of $2,122,477.
At the next selectboard meeting on Monday, the police, water and sewer budgets will be reviewed. Bryant said the selectboard plans to complete its budget proposal by Jan. 27, in order for the town to vote on it March 4.
Also on Town Meeting Day, voters will fill two slots on the selectboard. A two-year term and a three-year term will be on the ballot, created by the expiration of the terms of Sharon Compagna and Alan Huizenga. Compagna told the Independent that she plans to run again, while other selectboard members on Monday said that Huizenga plans to retire. Huizenga was not present at that meeting.
Town administrative assistant Jen Stetson said that thus far, two people have picked up petitions to run: Chris Perlee and Michelle Perlee. Interested candidates have until Jan. 27 to file petitions in order to appear on the ballot. 

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