PEPPERELL -- The impact of the recent $472,000 increase to the town's budget for the regional school district will likely have an impact on staffing and services at Town Hall. DPW Director Kenneth Kalinowski warned the Board of Public Works that a level-funded or reduction in budget for fiscal 2014 could have a long-term impact.
"I pointed out that further reductions in service from a public works standpoint would probably only accelerate the slow but steady decline in services such as drainage repairs, roadside trimming, mowing of detention basins, and just general sidewalk repairs and maintenance," said Kalinowski, who has been working with the Finance Committee in recent days.
"There's no easy solution to any of this," he said.
Highway Superintendent Peter Shattuck cautioned that any staffing reductions could impact meeting the service needs of the town.
"I'm two down, and when you put vacation time into it, you can be three down. We shouldn't be having a guy at the transfer station working there by himself," said Shattuck.
"We're constantly playing catch-up. I hope that it doesn't come down to any more cuts in staffing," he said.
"We can't afford to lose any more hours at all at this point," said Commissioner Greg Rice.
"Cutting a lot of supplies and materials is just going to hamper the ability of the few that are there to get work done," said Commissioner Paul Brinkman.
"We really should be adding substantial funds just for road maintenance, and instead we're cutting, and we have been cutting. It's not sustainable, and at some point we're going to get hit with million dollar-sized costs, not hundreds of thousands," added Rice.
Kalinowski provided a quick review of the transfer station budget, noting that the enterprise-funded operation was running slightly understaffed with two full-time employees, but noted the operation was financially stable.
"It's pretty good," said Kalinowski.
He also noted that the biggest variations in the budget tend to be insurance and retirement costs, and contracts with vendors for recyclables. Future increases in revenue are expected to come from improved recycling services.
"Revenues are generated by sales of annually renewable Transfer Station passes and bag tag sales, and augmented by returns from recyclables, scrap metal, construction debris, etc.," he said.
"The volume is there but the price is down," said transfer station operator Paul Pillsbury, who noted a reduction in recyclables from $8,612 in fiscal 2012 to $5,800 in fiscal 2013.
"To me, our transfer station is very labor intensive," said Shattuck, who explained that reduced prices for a truckload have dipped from $1,800 just six months ago to less than $400 today.
"The tonnage is there, it's just that there is no value right now," he said.
Kalinowski also reported that the town had recently applied for and received a $12,500 grant for technical assistance to review, rank and quantify three proposals received for a solar farm at the Boynton Street landfill site.
"It's been kind of difficult to create a real apples-to-apples comparison," said Kalinowski.
If all goes well, we'll be able to sift through those -- sort out the best deal financially for the town -- short range, long range," he said.
A faulty pressure transducer was cited as the cause of an overflow condition at the Heald Street water tank. The overflow of water was first reported by residents in the area.
"It's allowing the tank to overfill without the tank sensing the high flow high level alarm going off," said Kalinowski, who expected to have the problem resolved within a day or two.
The board approved an abatement request for 38 Tarbell St., unit 8A, in the amount of $15.26.