AYER -- As the new year begins, the Board of Selectmen took time Tuesday night for some housecleaning with Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand taking point on a number of issues left over from 2013.
Anticipating the upcoming budget formulation process for fiscal 2015, Pontbriand led off with a draft spending plan for the selectmen's office that holds the line on most items including BOS stipends at $11,446 (an amount that will be revised downward when the board's membership is reduced from five to three later in the year); BOS secretary at $53,180; town counsel at $78,000; and the Cemetery Department at $2,500.
Showing an increase over 2014, was police and fire LEL insurance at $117,284, up from $106,622; workman's compensation at $53,753, up from $48,867; building and liability insurance at $132,137, up from $131,046; and the town administrator's salary at $92,066, up from $91,242 reflecting a previously negotiated 2 percent increase.
Pontbriand told selectmen that although the draft had been given to the Finance Committee for review, he had yet to meet with its members to discuss the new spending.
The lack of face time was expected to end on Jan. 22 when the town administrator will at least get together with the FinCom.
Pontbriand called the budget "level-funded" but with final insurance costs still outstanding.
"There's nothing really new proposed in the budget," said Pontbriand. "It's pretty straightforward."
Also at the Jan. 7 meeting, selectmen:
* Voted to appoint Parks and Recreation director Jeffrey Thomas to the Dam and Pond Committee with a term to expire on June 30, 2014.
* Voted to approve and sign a quitclaim deed for the acceptance of Easy Street as a town way. The action follows authorization for the move made by residents at town meeting.
* Voted to approve a draft RFP (Request For Proposal) for property at 76 Central Avenue where a single-family home is to be constructed as part of a Habitat for Humanity project. The town was required by state law to issue an RFP formally putting the project out to bid. The affordable housing project is expected to be picked up by a non-profit developer. When completed, the home is to be sold to a qualifying buyer earning no more than 80 percent of the median income of area households. Bids on the RFP must be submitted by Feb. 3 with the winner chosen on Feb. 5.
* Asked Pontbriand to prepare a draft RFP for disposition of the old Central Fire House on Washington Street. The action was previously authorized by a vote at town meeting. According to the town administrator, before the RFP can be issued, the property will need to be appraised and a selling price set. Selectmen gave its blessing to Pontbriand to prepare the necessary paperwork, prepare a budget for all costs that might arise in the course of the disposition process, and to find alternative storage space for equipment belonging to the Parks Commission currently kept in the disused building. The draft RFP is expected to be ready by the end of the month.
* Decided to seek input from the Finance Committee before making any decision regarding setting a town wide rate for employee life insurance. Currently, life insurance coverage for employees is $2,000 paid for by both the town and its employees with each paying 75 percent and 25 percent respectively. Last year, the Insurance Advisory Committee recommended revising the rate upward to $10,000 while retaining the current payment formula. Since then, it was discovered that not all agreements with the town's various unions included the same 75/25 split while some did not even mention it. With no record on when or how the current life insurance payment was created, unions have asked the town to clarify the issue. Leaning toward adopting the same formula for all employees town wide, selectmen decided to postpone consideration whether to increase the payment from $2,000 to $5,000 or $10,000 until a breakdown of the costs involved could be drawn up and input had from the FinCom.