PITTSFIELD — The Pittsfield Town Council continued its review of the proposed 1999 budget Monday night, calling on the fire chief, police chief, animal control officer and foreman of the Public Works Department to defend their budgets.
The meeting almost didn’t happen as Councilors Teri Marino, Gary Jordan and David Quint were the only attendees. Councilor Tim Nichols arrived 50 minutes late, allowing for a quorum, followed by Councilor Kathy Brattoya. Tom Cote and Mike Dugas were absent. Nonvoting Councilor-elect Robert Stackhouse also attended the session.
Most of the eight budgets reviewed were proposed at their 1998 level, slightly below that level or a small amount higher. A big surprise, however, came when Public Works Foreman John Dixon told the council that the town’s bulldozer had broken down and would require between $5,550 and $6,970 in parts to fix.
The machine, a 1976 John Deere, had a new motor installed four years ago, said Dixon, and with the new repairs, both to the motor and the track, the bulldozer should last at least another four to five years.
Mayor David Quint asked whether the repairs could be put off and a bulldozer leased for this year but Dixon said the lease would cost as much as the repairs.
Town Manager D. Dwight Dogherty said there was enough budgeted in the public works maintenance account to cover the repairs but it would cut that account in half. “What happens if another major piece of equipment breaks down?” he asked.
Councilors opted to add $4,000 to the maintenance account, with $500 of that coming from building maintenance.
The public works account was approved at $272,952, a $19,000 increase over last year.
Fire Chief Bernard Williams also came to the council looking for an increase. He explained that the exterior wall of the fire bay, which was constructed in 1975, is crumbling where the mortar has disintegrated between the bricks. He requested $2,500 to repoint the wall and buy a good quality paint. He volunteered his firefighters as painters on the project.
Williams also asked for, and was approved for, an increase in money for motor vehicle maintenance and physicals. He explained that the department’s roster could use an additional 12 to 15 firefighters this year, and if they are successfully recruited, each firefighter would require a physical and vaccinations.
The Fire Department account was approved at $51,787, a $2,250 increase.
Other department totals approved were:
Police, $253,930, a $31,000 increase.
Communications, $116,557, a $3,300 decrease.
Animal control, $10,140, a $1,100 increase.
Cemeteries, $39,429, a $1,000 decrease.
Unclassified, $126,370, a $9,000 increase.
The unclassified budget includes matching funds for automation of the Webb Road railroad crossing, hydrant rental, town report printing, economic development grant match funds and stipends for the planning board and zoning board of appeals.
At the start of the budget process, Dogherty said that based on upcoming school payments, an anticipated increase in the county tax of 5 percent, and taking into consideration a slight increase in revenues, the local tax rate should increase $1.61 per thousand dollars valuation in 1999. For a person with a home valued at $100,000, this would mean a tax bill increase of $161.
It is unclear at this point in the budget process whether that goal has remained in focus.
Another work session for the final budget categories has been set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10. At this time the budgets for water and sewer, library, theater, historical society, and airport will be reviewed.