At the Warren Select Board meeting that took place on Tuesday, January 7, the board looked for ways to reduce next year’s budget. “There’s not a whole lot of places to cut,” board chair Andy Cunningham said. The juicy budget items of the evening were as follows.
Inferno Road improvements
Right now, the budget includes $441,000 to pay for repairs to Inferno Road, between West Hill Road and Snow Creek Road. “It’s not an emergency,” board member Anson Montgomery said.
At the same time, “it’s been neglected for a while, and we’ve identified what needs to be done,” board member Matt Groom said, implying that the town should plan on making the repairs.
Inferno Road will be included as a line item in the budget presented at Town Meeting in March.
Salary increases for town employees
While withholding pay raises could save the town money in the upcoming year, “People are working hard,” Montgomery said. “If we can continue to express that idea of respect and value to town employees and get great work out of them… it makes a difference,” he said.
The rest of the board agreed that they would include salary increases in the budget, even adding that they could pay for themselves by saving the town in human resources hiring and transition costs.
Ruby Blair House demolition
“We need to decide whether we’re serious about taking the Ruby Blair House down,” Andy Cunningham said of the building adjacent to the town offices, for which the town received a $20,000 demolition estimate.
“I don’t think we need to take it down yet,” public works director Barry Simpson said. “It sits there, and it’s a viable structure. We have a lot of other things we need to build [instead].”
But it’s a question of liability. “If we’re going to be landlords, we need to do it responsibly,” Groom said, explaining that if the town continues to rent out the building, it will need to invest money in the apartments’ upkeep.
“Does the town want to be in the landlord business?” Cunningham asked.
“We don’t want to be slumlords,” Montgomery said.
As of now, the current tenants’ lease on the building expires May 31, “and the income we’re getting from the apartments isn’t worth the risk of having people living there,” Montgomery expressed.
In the end, the board agreed to let the leases lapse and to add $15,000 to the Capital Reserve Fund with demolishing the Ruby Blair House in mind. “We don’t have to use it,” Cunningham said. In the meantime, Cunningham and Groom plan to visit the property to assess what might need to be repaired.
How does it all add up?
If the budget stays the way it was at the end of Monday’s meeting, it will mean a 10 cent increase in taxes from last year. But, all things considered, that’s not that bad, Cunningham said.
“I think you’ve got to look at the infrastructure and at how well we came through the flood,” Cunningham said, even going so far as to suggest that The Valley could be entering a “golden age for infrastructure” in the coming years.