Bellows Falls Trustees review ARPA funding, budgets

On March 8, the Bellows Falls Trustees discussed ARPA funding and financials. Photo provided

ROCKINGHAM, Vt. – On Tuesday, March 8, the Bellows Falls Trustees discussed ARPA funding and financials.

Development Director Gary Fox said flyers and notices were posted for the first of two ARPA public meetings which will take place on Wednesday, March 16 at 5:30 p.m. with childcare and food provided at 5 p.m. Anyone who wishes to attend is asked to RSVP. Camoin Associates will facilitate the process and projects will be introduced at the Joint Board Meeting. The next public meeting is Wednesday, April 13 at 5:30 p.m.

Finance Director Alyssa Harlow reviewed the budgets of the Bellows Falls Fire and Police Departments.

Municipal Manager Scott Pickup said Harlow had spent a lot of time allocating the budget appropriately and correctly. He said that, based on her work, he “felt confident” about the FY2023 numbers.

Pickup said that concerns for the Public Safety Building included water in the basement and ADA issues. He hoped to know by June whether they will receive FEMA funding and fire assistance grants.

Pickup said that the biggest expense would be paving for the parking lot project, scheduled for this year, 2022.

Harlow said that Chief Shaun McGinnis didn’t think that they spent the approved $20,000 from the article in FY20 for improvements to the building. She said that it was either in a special fund or the general fund. James McAuliffe said that if they wanted to preserve the money, it should be “clearly stated [that] it’s going to a reserve fund.”

Village President Deborah Wright mentioned that petroleum expenses should be raised due to the increased costs of propane and diesel.

Pickup said that daytime response was a concern for the Fire Department, referring to the call at the Saxtons River Elementary School where a broken pipe had caused flooding issues. He said that there were challenges on manpower during the weekday and workday. Wright wondered if they should budget for overtime for those calls.

Pickup said that, for office expenses, the Firehouse reporting program was updated at a one-time cost. He explained that, without upgrading this system, the Village would not be eligible for national fire assistance grants.

Pickup said that the drone is a “tremendous asset,” and had been a great tool to get damage control completed after the storms in July.

Moving on to the Police Department, Pickup mentioned that the base budget was consistent but that they were not at the 100% staff goal of six full-time officers. Overtime had resulted from coverage and having to send new officers to the academy. Harlow said the actual retention and recruitment bonus was at $10,500 and budgeted $18,000 in FY23 for six full-time officers at $3,000 each.

The board discussed the $25,000 allocation for vehicle purchases in FY22 with an additional $25,000 in the reserve fund for FY23.

McAuliffe said that there was an expectation of revenue to offset the expenses. Wright agreed that they anticipated more than they collected on ticketing.

The Joint Board meeting is on Tuesday, March 29 in the Lower Theatre of the Opera House at 6 p.m., and will include all three boards, including the Saxtons River Trustees to discuss the first ARPA meeting findings.




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