|Sieloff Wants More Money Set Aside to Repair Lanesborough Roads|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
01:15AM / Wednesday, January 24, 2018
|Town Manager Paul Sieloff told the Board of Selectmen on Monday that he hopes to invest more into repairing roads.|
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Town Manager Paul Sieloff wants to put more money toward road maintenance.
The town's budgeting process will start in earnest in two weeks with a meeting with the Police, Highway, and Fire department heads to discuss needs in the next budget. Sieloff said he is looking to double the amount the town spends on road repairs if possible.
"I am going to propose a substantial increase in the infrastructure line," Sieloff told the Board of Selectmen on Monday.
When Sieloff was first hired, the town hadn't set any money aside for road repairs. The work done each summer was limited to the amount of state Chapter 90 support — somewhere around $225,000 every year. In subsequent years, the town manager has been growing that annual allocation and now the town puts $75,000 aside to add to the state funds.
Now he wants to double that to $150,000. He said the Highway Department's funds have limited the number of roads it can repair each year and there are still a handful of roads rated in poor condition. He also says there are some large roads that will need a lot of work. Eventually, he wants the town to equal the state's allocation.
But the additional funds aren't set in stone. Sieloff said he'll start by asking for the $150,000 but he might pare that back depending on how the budget shapes up. But he doesn't want to go below $100,000 this year.
Otherwise, "I'm not expecting many changes in those three departments," he said. The other increase he is seeing is about $70,000 to hire two EMTs to work in the Highway Department
— a creative plan to help the ambulance service response time and increase productivity in the Highway Department.
The town's budget process starts with meetings with those large cost sectors. In the past, a joint meeting was held with the Finance Committee and the Board of Selectmen but last year that was switched to be separate meetings, so the department heads would meet with both boards individually. Selectman Henry "Hank" Sayers is now asking to go back to having a joint meeting.
"I'd like to go back to the roundtable. You get to hear what other boards have to say," Sayers said.
The schools typically meet with both boards as well in separate meetings. This year that budget will look drastically different because of the regionalization vote.
Sieloff said right now the town is working with the school district to sort out the costs, particularly with health insurance. The regional school budget will include the health insurance for Lanesborough school staff, when in past years that was kept in its own budget line. The town will see a large increase in the school budget but an equally large decrease in the town's insurance line.
"We're going to try and work as best we can to get exact numbers in there," Sieloff said.
Selectman Robert Ericson repeated his desire to see a lease agreement between the town and the regional school district. He wants to ensure town organizations will still have the ability to use the school during nights and weekends. And he wants to make sure the capital repair responsibilities are clearly laid out.
"If we don't have all of this stuff identified and figured out ahead of time, we are going to get surprised some day," Ericson said.
As proposed, the town would be responsible for the capital projects but Ericson wants to make sure that is outlined correctly in the lease agreement.
In other business, the town renewed its contract with the Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter for stray dogs. The animal control officer can bring the animals there. That keeps the town away from going back into the business of sheltering dogs and cats.
The tax collector's office will now be open on Tuesday mornings. The expanded hours for the tax collector was approved by a town meeting vote in November and as of Jan. 1, the extra day was added. The tax collector's office is now open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. It is also open from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. on Wednesday nights.