The Warren Select Board started out the new year with budget talks, negotiating the numbers for several town departments at their meeting on Tuesday, January 7.
Warren's highway department budget is down for next year, foreman Rae Weston reported, as the past year's budget included high-ticket items such as paving Inferno Road, fixing the slide on West Hill Road, and several expensive culvert replacements.
One of the road crew's "bigger items" for next year will be replacing culverts on West Hill Road, Weston said, and the cost of renting an excavator to do the work is included in the budget. The town will also pay a little extra to extend the apron from Route 100 at the Kingsbury Bridge up Airport Road around the first sharp turn, to help cars get through what has traditionally been a tricky spot during snow and mud season.
"I don't see any projects on here that aren't needed," select board chair Andy Cunningham said, going through the work list, which also includes reclaiming some sections of Sugarbush Access Road and replacing drainage on both Sugarbush Access Road and Prickly Mountain Road. The money for repairs to Dump Road, which was included in this past year's budget, will carry over to this year.
Weston hopes to use general contractors for some paving jobs to save money in the budget, and the road crew is continuing to investigate options for replacing their Dodge pickup with "more of a truck," he said. If it does not replace the Dodge, the highway department will have to purchase a new plow for it, Weston said.
The fire department has set its budget at $69,000 for next year, which includes $5,000 added to the truck maintenance schedule, fire chief Peter DeFreest reports. Warren is still looking into purchasing a ladder truck from a fire department in New Jersey, if cost, timing and transportation can work out to the town's advantage, DeFreest said.
Traditionally, volunteers from the fire department have hung holiday lights in Warren Village, but this year there were none and the select board implored as to why. DeFreest responded that the department is looking into more durable lighting options, as the old ones have constantly needed to be replaced.
Holiday lights "would be a priority, I'd say," select board member Matt Groom said, and the board agreed.
Warren's law enforcement budget is level-funded for next year, second constable Jeff Campbell reports, even though the department's responsibility has increased quite a bit.
"The state police have counted on us this year probably more than any other year," Campbell said, explaining that "a lot of the troopers feel confident with us now," and have been having the constables respond to car accidents and assist on the scene with domestic abuse cases.
In terms of expenses, "We tried to keep [them] the same as they were last year," Campbell said, and the board said they appreciate the resources the constables provide.
"It helps us keep our Washington County sheriff bill down a bit," Cunningham said.
The zoning/planning department budget will also be level-funded for next year, Warren zoning administrator Miron Malboeuf reports.
Some money in this past year's budget that the department didn't spend will carry over to next year and Malboeuf hopes to spend municipal planning money to investigate options for the town garage. Malboeuf has also accounted for some small expenses such as mapping and meetings with the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission (CVRPC).
In the past year, Warren "has had a lot of development," Malboeuf said, including some very large houses, as well as some more affordable units. In the future, the Warren Planning Commission hopes to look into more affordable housing options, and it's currently working through revisions regarding important energy issues in the Town Plan.
This year, Warren Public Library's budget has increased slightly, director Deborah Kahn reports.
"We've been doing some expanded programming to try and reach a different group of kids," program director Gillian Grimm said, explaining that the library is trying to increase activities that appeal to older elementary school kids (above grade three).
To support programming, there's been a small increase in staff hours, Kahn said, but mostly they've just been "shifting people around," Kahn said. The library does charge a small materials fee to pay for programming and it's looking into applying grants to offset other associated costs.
The next step, the library staff said, will be to expand programming to even older kids, including tweens and teens, as they've historically offered very little for that age group.