Council finds uses for school surplus


PROSPECT — The town will use $191,597 in surplus funds from the Region 16 school budget to purchase a number of items that would’ve otherwise been included in next fiscal year’s budget.

The Town Council last week approved transfers totaling $133,350, including $50,000 to purchase a full-size truck for the Public Works Department.

Last year, the town put $100,000 in a savings account to buy the truck in 2018. Mayor Robert Chatfield said he expects the truck to cost around $200,000, but won’t know the exact price until it is bid out.

The transfer will allow the town to pay for the truck outright, rather than through a lease-purchase agreement, saving the town money in interest.

The council also approved adding $20,000 to an account to pay for the next revaluation in a couple of years. The revaluation of taxable property, which the town must complete every five years, is expected to cost about $200,000.

The third transfer was $10,600 for a new 60-inch lawn mower. That transfer should cover the entire cost, Chatfield said. The mower will be used on irrigated fields which need to be mown twice a week.

Another $14,500 will go toward purchasing a new 1,000 gallon gas tank for the fire department. The town garage and police station each have their own fuel tanks already.

“We are just preparing ourselves for when the big one comes, so that our emergency services are going to be fully-sustainable on their own,” Chatfield said.

He said the town can go through 1,000 to 1,500 gallons of gas in a weekend for a storm with a foot of snowfall. He said the town has never run out of fuel in the past.

“We don’t want to get caught short,” he said.

Council member Carla Perugini-Erickson opposed the fuel tank transfer, saying the town’s money could be better spent elsewhere.

After debating whether the expense should be bid out, the council approved $12,000 for a new server for the tax collector and assessor’s office.

Tax Collector Diane Lauber said she didn’t want to go out to bid because she is comfortable with the current IT contractor, Mark Wither of Lightning PC, who has serviced the department for about 15 years and knows the town’s needs and software.

The council agreed to bid out the roughly $7,500 in hardware costs and use Lauber to install the new network.

“I would feel better if this were done properly,” Council member Patricia Geary said.

Several council members vowed to revisit the bidding process for Wither’s contracted services during budget discussions. IT services have never gone out to bid, Chatfield said.

“We want the same person doing the work and don’t want to change every month,” he said.

Perugini-Erickson said the failure to bid those services makes other businesses in town feel bad.

“It appears that we’re not giving them a fair shot,” she said.

The last transfers were $20,000 for legal fees, which have already been spent on union negotiations and land use, $1,250 for payment in lieu of benefits, and $5,000 for storm water inspections.