Capital projects back on agenda

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The Board of Selectmen, front at table, discuss the transfer of funds from the unassigned general fund to be used for capital projects during a town meeting Aug. 31 at the St. Michael Church’s lyceum. The transfer was voted down. Officials are bringing the issue back to a town meeting in January. –FILE PHOTO

BEACON FALLS — A few months after voters soundly rejected spending surplus money on a handful of capital projects, officials are trying again — and this time with a couple of more items added to the list.

The Board of Selectmen plans to hold a town meeting on Jan. 3 at Woodland Regional High School to seek approval to spend up to $192,000 from the unassigned fund balance for six capital projects. The time for the meeting wasn’t set as of this post.

The town wants to use $43,000 for security upgrades at the police and fire departments, $30,000 for personal protection equipment for the fire department, $25,000 for new portable radios for the fire department, $29,000 for phone system upgrades at Town Hall, $30,000 for two chest compression units, and $35,000 for new accounting software.

In August, residents overwhelmingly rejected, by a vote of 113 to 30, using the funds for the security upgrades, personal protection equipment, portable radios, and phone system upgrades.

The vote in August came after the town approved its 2017-18 municipal budget but before the state approved its biennial budget.

“Part of the feedback we received that night was, due to the great degree of uncertainty in the budget situation, people were reluctant to spend the money even though those were deemed to be high priority safety and security upgrades,” First Selectman Christopher Bielik said during last week’s Board of Selectmen meeting.

However, that wasn’t the only reason the proposed spending wasn’t well received.

The majority of residents who showed up at the meeting were from Chatfield Farms, a private community for people 55 years old and older.

Chatfield Farm residents saw their property assessments rise while most of the assessments around town went down during the last revaluation. This, combined with a drop in the grand list and increase in town and school spending, caused the property taxes on homes in Chatfield Farms to jump significantly higher than the rest of the town.

Throughout the meeting, Chatfield Farms residents, who mostly voted against using the money, voiced their concern that they were not being treated fairly by the town.

Finance Manager Thomas Broesler said the items added to the list of capital projects — the chest compression systems and new accounting software — are items the town needs.

Officials want to use the $30,000 to buy two chest compression systems, he said, one for each of the town’s ambulances. The system would perform chest compressions on a patient while emergency medical technicians transport the person to the hospital, he said.

Broesler said the town’s current accounting software doesn’t meet the needs of the town anymore. It lacks a number of necessary features, such as the yearend closing procedures, he said.

“It is a very inefficient system,” Broesler said.