June 16, 2019

Belfast manager warns of steeper fuel costs

BELFAST – The city is looking at a huge bump in the cost of fuel oil for the coming year.

City Manager Joseph Slocum estimated that the cost for No. 2 heating oil could increase by as much as 50 percent next year. Gasoline and diesel fuel prices also are expected to increase.

In his manager’s report dealing with the Tuesday, April 15, City Council meeting, Slocum advised the council that the price of fuel oil was fluctuating daily and that the most recent bid revealed “at a minimum” an increase of 47 percent. He emphasized that the price was good only for the day it was bid.

For that reason, Slocum suggested the council consider putting off seeking bids until the end of the heating season and instead test the market in June.

“Pushing this shock aside, we need to consider whether we should reject all bids at this time and consider trying the market in early June,” Slocum said. “What we do know is that we will have different prices between the time I write this and the actual meeting on the 15th.”

The city budgeted $56,000 for heating oil for its various buildings last year. A 50 percent increase would boost that expense to more than $84,000. Heating costs have run from $22,000 at City Hall to $800 at the Grove Cemetery maintenance building.

Slocum said that from talking to oil dealers, he learned that historically, heating fuel prices drop after the heating season ends and refineries concentrate on building up their inventories of gasoline. That tradition broke last year as prices remained high throughout the summer months. That “has everyone concerned about next year,” Slocum stated.

Slocum also advised the council that his budget proposal for the 2008-09 fiscal year would likely be delayed until next week. Slocum said he had planned to have the budget ready by Friday, April 18, but that the documents would not be completed until the following week.

The budget will be Slocum’s first, as former City Manager Terry St. Peter had already submitted his final budget by the time Slocum was hired to replace him. St. Peter retired in June.

“The process has been very intricate, often calling for many programs and services to be completely re-evaluated,” Slocum stated. “While this has been a time-consuming exercise, every minute of it has been a valuable experience.”

During Tuesday’s meeting the council also is scheduled to discuss entering into a lease agreement with the Belfast Boat Yard for the city-owned and unused former Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad sheds and 16,280 square feet of waterfront land in the former rail yard at a rent of $375 per month. The city has proposed a five-year lease with a provision that clearly states the lease will not automatically be renewed.

“I want the city to have no continuing obligation at the end of the five years in case the city has a new development scheme or other plan for the property at that time,” Slocum noted.

The council meeting agenda also has a request from Edward and Judy Hemmingsen, of the Belfast Bay Inn on Main Street, for the use of three parking spaces in front of the eight-unit hotel. The hotel would like the spaces to allow guests to park in front while registering and loading and unloading their luggage. The Hemmingsens have offered to trade the city parking spaces in their off-street parking lots. The city had previously agreed to provide the three spaces when a 22-room hotel was proposed for the same location.



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