ANNA BOARINI, Manchester Journal
MANCHESTER -- There are 27 warned articles Manchester’s voters will get to consider when they converge on the Manchester Elementary School gym on Saturday, March 1, at 1 p.m., for the floor meeting that kicks off this year’s Town Meeting. While many are familiar or straightforward, there are also some articles creating discussion and debate around town.
The appropriation for hte library of $198,000 in article 25 has been discussed at great length and was the subject of its own article in the Febraury 21, 2013 issue of The Manchester Journal. The town wil also vote to approve the $4,521,592 budget for fiscal year 2015.
Article 5, if passed, would require all requests for appropriations over $2,500 to be voted on by Australian ballot. John O’Keefe, town manager, said there was actually a similar article passed in 1948 and later overturned, placing all appropriations above $500 on an Australian ballot. This article will only affect social services - or the organizations that ask the town for money, but are not part of the municipality, he said.
Another appropriation that has been discussed recently is the appropriation for the salt shed. While the warning only mentions the $100,000 to be pulled from the Capital Improvement and Contingency Reserve Fund, the total cost of the project is budgeted for $200,000. O’Keefe said the money will be used from the operating budget first -- the example he gave was if the price came to $180,000 then only $80,000 would come from the fund, with $100,000 coming from tax payer money.
"Our current salt shed if falling down, it is an old wooden shelter, the roof is falling in," he said. "It would increase out capacity from 300 tons to 1500 tons."
O’Keefe said the reason the whole amount for the salt shed being put in this budget is because the town does not typically use sinking funds for large projects. The reason for this a belief against taxing people for something that is not being utilized right away.
"You’re taking that money from them in the year you’re not using it," he said. "They [the tax payer] is losing the use of that money."
The $150,000 for the purchase an ambulance to be used by the Manchester Rescue Squad has raised many questions around town. Ben Weiss, president of the squad, said what people need to know is the town will not buy the ambulance if the funding is not approved by the other towns. This funding will be used to pay Manchester for the lease of the vehicle.
"Danby and Mt. Tabor will be voting on that funding at their respective Town Meetings," Weiss said. "Dorset and Winhall put the money into their budgets."
Because the money is coming from the Capital Improvement and Contingency Reserve fund, the purchase will not affect Manchester taxes, he said. The town of Manchester decided to purchase the ambulance in part that because they provide the most money to the rescue squad, O’Keefe said. The possibility of consolidation of emergency services with Dorset was also another consideration.
"We’re doing a study to figure out what do to with emergency medical services -- so to go out and buy an ambulance and a year later we figure out we want to have our own rescue squad...we will lose our investment," O’Keefe said.
The other challenge to the ambulance purchase was the use of the Capital Improvement and Contingency Reserve Fund, which is only used for the town, not outside interests like the rescue squad.
Purchasing the ambulance this year and leasing it to the squad means that they receive an ambulance about three years before the plan they originally suggested, O’Keefe said.
A sum of $15,000 is being requested for the marketing committee in Article 10. Ron Mancini is leading the marketing group and said so far they have been gathering data and analyzing it to create a strategic targeted marketing plan to attract the right kind of businesses and tourists to Manchester. The committee has made recommendations to the town about how to utilize their website, he said.
"We are about to launch a formal media plan for the next 12 months," Mancini said.
This plan is anticipated to launch in May.
Finally, another article that has prompted discussion is Article 12, regarding the support of the Memorandum of Understanding that authorizes the public safety study between Manchester and Dorset.
O’Keefe said the money for the study -- $20,000 -- is a part of the budget, but this is an advisory question to see how the town is responding to some of these questions.
"The select board feels, (if) we’re not going to support a study, would they really support merging police departments?" he said.
O’Keefe said there are many possible outcomes of this study and unlike many of the "crazy" studies that can get funded by the federal government, this one will have a real outcome that could help both Manchester and Dorset. Plus, the potential savings for the towns could be sizeable.
"We spend collectively between the two towns on all public safety...about $2.6 million," he said. "We have three separate fire departments that serve our combined less than 7,000 residents...we have 11 full sized fire trucks. The city of Rutland has four...It’s not to say that under the current system it’s the wrong number...but to look at it and say 11 trucks for 7,500 people -- it’s a high number."