December 12, 2019

Van Buren councilors review budget

VAN BUREN — The Van Buren Town Council took its first crack at a municipal budget for 1991-92 during a meeting Monday night that lasted more than three hours.

Town Manager Jayne Farrin gave the councilors a preliminary version of the budget last week. Town councilors agreed that the budget put before voters would be no higher than that approved last year. They also agreed they were more concerned with the bottom line than with “picks and shovels.” If department heads cannot lower their budgets, they probably will be given percentages or dollar amounts to cut by, they said.

After a week during which the budget was reviewed, town councilors said it simply was too high. Farrin agreed and said it included “everything we should have,” and that it reflected higher amounts for accounts now overdrafted because they were under budgeted last year.

Councilor Robert Learnard said, “The bottom line is how much can we afford.” Reducing the cost of providing town services might mean eliminating positions, he said.

They spent considerable time looking for cuts, including the refinancing of loans, elimination of service contracts, elimination of services, reduction of purchases and building repairs and elimination of legal fees and part-time services.

The town also has unionized workers for which contracts have to be negotiated and non-union workers with personnel policies that may not be changed.

Councilor Elmer Corbin was critical of the practice of overdrafting accounts and said such practice should be “grounds for dismissal.” Others agreed it was a problem, but felt dismissal was extreme.

In other business, it was learned that replacement trustees for the Van Buren Hospital District must be ratified by a vote of the Town Council. The appointments will be ratified next week.

In a related matter, Farrin briefed the council on a lawsuit Casco Northern Bank filed against the hospital district involving payment of the trustees’ $50,000 loan for a computer for the now-defunct Van Buren Community Hospital. Van Buren residents were named as party-in-interest.

She said the bank’s request for an injunction under which the hospital district would issue to the town a warrant for payment was rejected.

Farrin said emergency road-opening work on a stretch of Parent Road was taking longer than expected because snow was packed by snowmobiles. Highway workers worked more than six hours and were about half-way through. She said rain that fell recently should soften the snow and make the work proceed more rapidly.

Corbin said workers “should have quit” when they saw how involved the work was. Farrin said the council had given “no parameters.”

Councilors agreed, in light of the Good Shepherd Sisters’ 100 years of service to Van Buren, to spend $85 for a page in a commemorative booklet being prepared for the nuns’ centennial celebration in June.

They also renewed a special entertainment permit for the Van Buren Hotel and approved a street light for Cleveland Avenue through June 30, at a cost of $4.70.

They approved an abatement for a veteran’s widow and signed the abatement book.

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