Bellows Falls Trustees discuss village audit, BFPD hiring memorandum

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, April 27, the Bellows Falls Village Trustees discussed a draft of the Village Audit with Josh Quinn and Ron Smith of RHR Smith & Company. Municipal Manager Scott Pickup requested approval of the Bellows Falls Police Department Memorandum of Agreement.

Quinn presented the audit, expressing that fiscal year 2020 was a difficult year. He explained the accounts receivable with $3.2 million in water and $1.2 million in sewer were “basically reimbursement requests for your bonds and loans.” He explained that some of the requests were late, which is why they were in receivable.

Quinn said if the money was not spent it would come out of the debt and that “both of those [funds] at the end of the day are operating at a surplus.”

James McAulliffe asked if the “due to” account would be reduced when they received the $830,000 from the sewer fund, noting the fund went from zero to $964,000 in 2020.

Quinn explained that when it was received, it would flow through the town’s cash account through the “due to” and “due from” accounts and then into accounts receivable. He added that he thought that the funds had already been received. McAuliffe said the March statement showed $1.1 million in the “due to” account.

Smith explained they would find out more information. He added that the village was in a favorable equity position. He explained, “People have a hard time understanding that you can have an equity position but at the same time have a cash flow problem, and here’s the reason why right here.”

McAuliffe explained, “The big issue for this board is setting the rates for water and sewer.” He said they had accepted the budget which “raised questions in my mind, as to who needs rate increases and who doesn’t… That’s part of the urgency as far as we’re concerned here.”

Village President Deborah Wright agreed and said that when they set rates, “We want to know we are on firm ground.”

Quinn agreed to work with the Trustees, ensuring reimbursement requests were completed, and that the village had the most timely information that they needed to make those decisions.

Also during the meeting, Muncipal Manager Scott Pickup presented the updated Memorandum of Agreement for hiring negotiations for the BFPD, appreciating the extra effort done by the village. He said the agreement would give the village a scheduled wage to use as part of recruitment.

Pickup explained that wages and benefits were important to new hires and flexible compensation schedules were beneficial to the department’s long-term goals. He understood affordability was a concern and “Public safety is one of our largest costs in our general fund. Last year, we had vacancies,” which resulted in a positive cash flow.

Pickup thought this was a good package and would provide a “helpful, more transparent, more professional and higher performing department.”

McAulifffe made the motion to approve the MOA. He said normally a three-year contract renewal was routine, but now they are calling it “the perfect storm,” and one of the biggest issues they found was the lack of new police officers. He suggested this would position the village to move forward competitively in a competitve environment. “I think we all agree that it’s important that Bellows Falls have a highly functioning police department.”

Wright acknowledged, “Our dollars spent are as moderate as we can possibly make them,” and recognized that recruiting has become a problem in Vermont. She said, “Every town surrounding us is also looking for more officers.”

The Memorandum of Agreement was passed unanimously.

The Village Trustees meet on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House at 6 p.m.

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