Originally published in The Weekly Packet, January 17, 2013
Sedgwick budget committee and selectmen begin preparing town for hard times
by Bette Britt
Before they started to review the budgetary needs for fiscal year 2013-14, selectmen took time to address questions from several members of the public who remain impatient about a land use issue on Walker Pond that has dragged on for years.
Saying he’d just stopped by the town office to pick up his nomination papers because he’s ready to run for selectman again, Nelson Grindal chided selectmen Neil Davis, Colby Pert and Victor Smith for not being more open with the public. “No one knows what’s going on,” stated Grindal. As explained by CEO Ed Michaels, attorneys for both sides—the Town of Sedgwick and members of the Patten family, owners of a former girls camp on Walker Pond—are seriously negotiating, not wasting money. “The town has bent over backward,” added Smith.
The tangible spending of money was covered during review of the budget for fiscal year 2013-14, and began with a piece of good news delivered by Road Commissioner Paul Carter. Because last winter had been mild and relatively snow-free, $112,000 had been saved; it would allow the highway budget to be held at the 2012-13 level. When asked about how things have been going this winter, Carter replied that plowing and sanding had been needed “only a half dozen times so far.”
Passing out copies of the 2013-14 fire department budget, Fire Chief David Carter had good news, too; the budget was “very similar to last year’s.” There had been a couple of unexpected expenditures, the fire chief reported: a thermostat at the North Sedgwick Station broke and couldn’t be replaced, so it was necessary to “hook up the zones differently,” and a bearing had to be replaced on one of the trucks. Otherwise, the proposed 2013-14 budget is “working out pretty close to the current budget.” Carter then gave an encouraging report of fire department activities, including the addition of seven new firefighters and effective response to a variety of auto accidents, estimated to be 25-percent of calls received by the Sedgwick Fire Department. More funds, from $5,000 in the past to $10,000, are again being saved out for purchase of a new fire truck in about five years. Carter said.
Before selectmen reviewed as much of the projected budget as is possible at this time, selectmen heard an appeal for additional funding from Peninsula Ambulance Corps. Town meeting voters in March 2012 had authorized $13,670 for PAC, but Robert Vaughan was present to ask that the amount be raised to $14,867, an increase of $1,197. PAC is operating at a considerable loss, according to Vaughan, who pointed out that total expenses of $699,705 outstrip operating revenue by $318,105. Inclusion of other sources of non-operating revenue, such as annual giving ($125,000), plus operating subsidies ($72,016) and ambulance reserve contributions ($39,878) from towns cut the loss to $63,210. But the bottom line shows PAC $103,089 “in the red” when a $39,878 ambulance replacement reserve is included. When speaking of staffing, Vaughan said the goal of PAC is to have an experienced, highly-qualified paramedic on every ambulance run, news not wasted on selectmen Davis and Pert, both of whom had needed ambulance service during 2012. “And we appreciated it,” Pert told Vaughan.
Overall budget review indicated effort to hold the line at 2012 figures, with few recommendations to come from surplus. Among those are: town office and town house accounts ($8,000), part of general assistance ($3,000, with $4,500 to be raised), fire equipment reserve ($10,000), forest fire fighting ($1,000) and veterans graves ($4,000). Increases in the amount to be raised include: snow removal ($176,400, up from $168,000 in 2012), sludge disposal ($9,500, up from $8,500), animal control ($3,500, up from $1,500), Administration, including wages ($144,000, up from $133,000) legal fees ($7,000, up from $100 due to having surplus in account in 2012). Tarring will be less ($50,000, a decrease of $30,000 from 2012). There is one new account of $15,000 to be raised for Sedgwick/Brooksville Town Landing, the public access site at Walker Pond. Figures for the county tax and the transfer station are not yet available; it is expected that the proposed school budget will be revealed at the next selectmen’s meeting with the budget committee on Thursday, January 17.