By Pattie Pacella, Neighb News Correspondent
The Acushnet Selectboard heard from three Department Heads regarding their FY19 budgets at their 2/20 meeting. Chairperson Kevin Gaspar was absent so the meeting was lead by Selectboard member Michael Cioper.
First up in the budget review of was Fire Chief Kevin Gallagher, who presented a level-funded salary budget first.
He then said that there were small increases due to the call volume. There was a 45% increase in calls volume over the last year, “which takes a toll on the budget,” he said.
Chief Gallagher also explained that the EMS department took 1,021 calls last year and to date for this year, they have taken 1,051.
He also explained that 50% of the call volume came from senior residents 65+ years old.
Chief Gallagher went over three capital expenditure articles for Town Meeting. One item was to change out the portable radio system, adding one radio to each air pack at a cost of $25,000.
The second request would be for a CPR device, also known as the “Lucas” to be purchased for both ambulances, amounting to $28,862 for two devices.
And lastly, a capital expenditure of $46,179 for a Sterelis machine, which takes medical waste and sharps, such as needles, and sanitizes and shreds them. He says the department currently pays $5,000 a year for another company to come in quarterly to do this work. Having the machine in house would allow them to utilize it more frequently.
Chief Gallagher stated that the capital expenditures that his department is requesting would come from the EMS revenue and not out of the tax money.
Chief Gallagher also had a transfer request to purchase a used 100’ ladder fire apparatus from the Town of Lexington for $40,000. He explained the truck is 18 years old, however, it is in good condition. Currently Acushnet has to call Fairhaven for use of its 100’ ladder truck, or another town when they need one.
“I would never come to you and ask for $900,000 to purchase a new fire truck,” Chief Gallagher said, “I’m not that stupid. But $40,000 is a steal for this truck. And it would put our firefighters’ safety first.”
The Board approved the transfer from the reserve fund to purchase the 100’ ladder truck. The Finance Committee will also have to approve the transfer.
The Selectboard also heard from Police Chief Michael Alves on his FY19 budget. Chief Alves stated the training budget had increased to show exactly what they use yearly to train staff, and that was why the Selectboard was seeing an increase from $1,500.00 to $10,000.
Chief Alves said in the past he would have to look for free trainings or grants that would cover training costs, when in reality trainings would cost anywhere from $10,000-$15,000.
He also requested that his part-time administrative assistant become full-time.
Town administrator Brian Noble stated that the budget had always budgeted for the full-time position but the position was part-time. He said that now Chief Alves was requesting it to be a full-time position as the Department really needs the extra assistance.
Chief Alves also went over his Town Meeting articles for capital expenditures. He explained they wanted to install or build a proper radio system, which would cost between $130,000 to $140,000.
He said that the Acushnet Police Department is conducting a study with Fairhaven and Mattapoisett for a full assessment of their communication system. The next step would be to build the radio system.
Chief Alves also requested a town meeting article for $10-$12,000 to buy ten Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) to have one in every vehicle and two for the building. He stated they currently have a total of three defibrillators. The board approved the request, which will also have to be approved by the Finance Committee before it is placed on the Town Meeting warrant.
The last to present a budget was Dan Menard of the Board of Public Works. Mr. Menard had a few increases in the Highway budget, first to hire a full-time individual and then for engineering costs due to multiple drainage projects that are upcoming in the town.
Mr. Menard explained under Snow and Ice, they are currently under budget and in Water & Sewer both budgets presented with a slight increase for the New Bedford water and sewer rates increases.
Mr. Menard also explained his two article requests for capital expenditures. The first is to replace a six-wheel sander truck with a 10-wheel sander truck which would cost $250,000. The second request is for a mini excavator for the Water Department to use in their road work repairs of water “curb boxes” that would cost $52,000.
He explained that ‘curb boxes’ are at the end of everyone’s home, about four feet under, and when it needs to be repaired the whole box needs to be pulled out by an excavator. They are currently using the equipment from the highway department, which interferes with their work.
Mr. Noble explained that they would also have to put an article in for a new water server, which is the computer for the Water Department. He said the current water server is out of date and needs to be replaced.
In other business, the Selectboard heard from James Street resident Mary Ellen Lamb who requested that the speed limit on James Street be reduced from 35 m.p.h. to 25 m.p.h. Ms. Lamb stated that there are at least three bus stops on James Street, and that cars are always speeding, with drivers texting and driving erratically on that street.
“I’m fearful for our children,” she said.
The Selectboard passed a motion to reduce the speed limit on James Street to 25 m.p.h.
Also on hand at the meeting was Lucas Correia, a candidate for Eagle Scout. Mr. Correia stated he was a member of the 333 E. Freetown Boy Scouts and was looking for an opportunity to do community work and show leadership to assist in earning the rank of Eagle Scout. He said he wanted his project to be in Acushnet. Mr. Noble said there are a few projects coming up around Town and he would share the offer with the various department heads.
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