Officials eye loan to pay for big ticket items

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The loan Beacon Falls officials are seeking includes $125,000 to pay for repairs to Blackberry Hill Road, which was severely damaged last year from heavy rains. –FILE PHOTO

BEACON FALLS — The boards of Selectmen and Finance have put together a proposal for a $1.1 million note that will cover the town’s large ticket items and capital projects.

First Selectman Gerard Smith explained when the boards first put these items into the budget, the town’s budget increased by 18 percent.

“We knew it was not going to work,” Smith said.

Even though the boards could not put everything into the budget, Smith said these were items that the town desperately needed to take care of.

“These are all the things that have been put off for years that will actually cripple the town if we don’t get. I know I sound like an alarmist, but they are things that need to get done,” Smith said.

The note would cover $6,000 for town clerk seats; $21,456 for Lifepak Defibrillators for the fire department; $130,000 for refurbishing of the ambulance; $10,000 for a new hood for the kitchen stove at the fire house; $85,000 for a town-wide radio system; $39,560 for new financial software; $12,224 for computer equipment for the town hall; $74,700 for the replacement a public works trucks; $40,000 for a new police vehicle; $300,000 for a waste water treatment study; $30,000 for a waste water treatment flow meter at Pine Bridge Pump Station; $13,800 to clean manholes on West Road and Lopus Road; $87,000 for a loader for public works; $45,000 to pay for the streetscape project and $125,000 to pay for repairs to Blackberry Hill Road.

The town will vote May 1 on the current proposed budget of approximately $6 million, which represents a $165,000 increase over last years budget, before it votes on the proposed loan. Included in the proposed budget is $28,000 that will cover the year’s payment for the note.

The town would vote on the note after the budget. A vote on the note has not been scheduled yet. If approved, the note would be paid back over a 10-year period at a $130,000 a year.

Smith explained that the town plans to take on a 10-year note to keep the payments manageable. However, his goal is to be able to pay the note off in five years.

Smith explained that if the residents vote not to approve the budget, the town is still obligated to pay for the costs incurred by work on the streetscape and Blackberry Hill Road.

According to the loan request, the expense for these two items adds up to $170,000, which is $5,000 more than the current proposed town budget increase.

Smith expounded upon the reason the town needed to purchase some of these items.

Smith explained that the town clerk seats were computer terminals

“Right now, the server is in the town hall. If that system goes down, the town hall closes,” Smith said.

If the server went down, the town would be unable to collect taxes or record any information, he said.

Smith said that the town is on a 10-year rotation for replacing the ambulance. However, it is a few years past the 10-year mark.

Buying a new ambulance would cost the town $200,000, but refurbishing it and bringing it up to the current standards will only cost the town $130,000, according to officials.

The kitchen hood for the fire house is necessary to allow the building to continue to serve as an emergency shelter for the town.

“Right now, the fire marshal said we can’t cook in the kitchen if we don’t replace the hood,” Smith said.

According to Smith, the town has been putting thousands of dollars worth of repair into the current public works truck.

“We are actually going to take that truck out of service and replace it with a new truck. The waste water treatment plant needs another vehicle, that vehicle is going to the waste water treatment plant. So, we are going to provide two different vehicles to two departments,” Smith said.

Smith felt the waste water treatment plant study, which is the costliest item in the note, was one of the most important ones.

The plant is over 40 years old and it currently needs nitrogen and phosphorus upgrades.

“There are a number of upgrades that it needs, but to know exactly where to take the waste water treatment plant so we don’t fix one thing and then upset something else, we have to have a comprehensive study,” Smith said.

If the plant loses something as simple as a backflow preventer and began overflowing, it could cost $30 million to fix it and the town would be fined every day because it would be dumping raw sewage into the river, he said.