BEACON FALLS — The effort to clean up from the tornado in May will cost the town more than what voters approved spending.
Voters approved spending up to $300,000 from the town’s unassigned fund balance for the cleanup, which includes hauling away debris, tree cutting and removing hanging limbs. Officials subsequently awarded Supreme Industries Inc. out of Harwinton a contract for about $292,000 to do the work.
However, the cleanup will cost more than what was budgeted due to more tree work than the town or the company suspected, First Selectman Christopher Bielik said.
“When we had the tree people out there, as we were going through the cutting, we determined there were additional trees that the tree warden had not been able to get a clean enough view of when he was making his initial assessment. It turned out, as we were doing the work, we discovered more trees than we budgeted for that needed to be done,” Bielik said during the Board of Selectmen meeting last week.
Bielik said the company took down all the trees since it was a matter of safety.
“That meant we had less money to go after the estimated 15,000 cubic yards of debris that we still had to clean up,” Bielik said.
The board voted, 2-1, to transfer $19,999 from the contingency fund to cover some of the additional cleanup work. Bielik and Selectman Peter Betkoski voted in favor of the transfer. Selectman Michael Krenesky voted against it.
The $19,999 transfer was not a coincidence. That figure is $1 less than the minimum amount for a transfer that would have to be approved by voters. Any transfer of $20,000 or more has to go to a town meeting for a vote.
Krenesky said he disagreed with the transfer because he felt residents already approved a certain amount for the work, a figure, he added, that is wrong based on the way things turned out.
“To pick $19,999 as a number just so you don’t have to go talk to the public, I believe you are playing games and I can’t support it,” Krenesky said.
Bielik said if the town transferred a larger amount and had to go to a town meeting, Supreme Industries would have already finished what it was contracted to do, and the town would need to bring them back at a higher price.
“If we do not get them while they are still on the ground here, we will not be able to get the same price for the disposal and the immediate response from the crew right now. It is a question of timing more than anything else. If I could ask for $50,000 and get the town meeting scheduled in time to get it done while they are still here, I would do it. But the calendar does not work in our favor,” Bielik said.
Even with the additional funds, the money is not expected to cover the entire cost of the cleanup effort.
Bielik said the additional $19,999 will allow Supreme Industries to remove another 1,500 cubic yards of debris. The town’s public works department can handle whatever is left over, he said.
“Whatever we are not able to get from Supreme we are more than likely able to handle in-house. We have our own chipper. It means we will be allocating our work force to get the rest of whatever is left behind, but I am confident we can do it that way,” Bielik said.
If the money isn’t going to cover the total amount of work that needs to be done, Krenesky said the town should have the public works department do all the work.
“I do not support taking money out of contingency to do this because if we believe the amount of material that is left can be handled by public works, then let’s go with what the public supported us for. Then we will figure out how the town crew can effectively clean up what is there,” Krenesky said.
Betkoski said the public works department is working with a smaller crew because of people on vacation. Even with the additional $19,999, he said the cost is still under the original estimates the town received for the work.
“I will stick my neck out and say the taxpayers of Beacon Falls will be OK with another $19,000. They just want this stuff cleaned up,” Betkoski said.