BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, Feb. 14, the Bellows Falls Village Trustees discussed the village audit with Ron Smith from RHR Smith.
Smith presented the highlights of the village audit for FY2022; with village assets at $3 million and obligations at $2.3 million; there was $701,000 in the general fund balance. Smith noted the fund balance grew $57,000 from the year before and with a budget of $1.6 million; left the trustees with operating funds for 150 days.
He said the village was in “great condition” and said he remembered there were years that Bellows Falls had no money.
Smith highlighted the water and wastewater and noted the water fund was healthier. Water funds had $5.7 million as fixed assets and $2.1 million in unrestricted funds and the wastewater fund had $7.1 million in fixed assets with $289,000 unrestricted.
Smith gave the Village of Bellows Falls an A-. He said there was great progress and referred to Finance Director Alyssa Harlow for the cleaned books and delivering requested items the way they needed to be completed.
Smith said from FY2021, the audit was as different as “night and day.” He said the complexity was still a challenge with the pooled cash between town and village and there was a lot to manage on where, who, and what the money is used for, and for FY2022, he said, Harlow was able to answer those questions.
Trustee James McAuliffe asked about the management letter. Smith said there was nothing to report on condition weaknesses. His minor suggestion was to continue to change the accounting structure format to simplify cash reconciliation. Smith said last year, “they were all over the board” but this year there was “a lot of improvement.”
Municipal Manager Scott Pickup described upcoming capital improvements for the water department. The Griswold storage tank contract was set for $175,000 and they were working on a schedule. Pickup told residents they will not see disruption in water pressure or delivery.
He said they would decommission the tower this spring. Pickup was disappointed they had found no one that was interested to utilize the existing structure, but said it “shows how quickly technology changes.”
Pickup said the Kissell Hill water main project permit applications were submitted and they were waiting on next steps for state funding. There was an opportunity to receive a 0% interest loan from the state, but no specific dates were announced for the application.
Pickup said there was potential to hire one more employee in the water department, currently there are three. Chief Operator Brian Joslyn retires in April of 2024. Pickup said there was one more position with a retirement eligible position and the training and certification required an overlap. The lead line inventory within the village must be completed by October 2024 and other capital projects included hydrant and water meter replacement.
Joslyn said they had started changing the meters before Covid, and then when they were ready to purchase more, meters were scarce. He said there were 100-150 that needed replacing. Joslyn said there were 1,100 connections to inventory for lead. He said, he thought the village would end up with one lead line, the majority were copper lines. They had found eight lead, but six had already been replaced.
Pickup recommended a 3% rate increase on water. McAuliffe said he did not feel they needed one yet. Pickup said the Rural Community Assistance Program (RCAP) recommendations were small increases over time and suggested by the fall they add the rate increase.
The trustees meetings are on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 6 p.m. in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House. The Village Annual Meeting is Monday, May 15 at 7 p.m.