PEPPERELL -- Selectmen decided Monday night to add a line-item to the budget to fund the raising of flags along Main Street for various holidays, although no votes were taken.
If selectmen vote at a future meeting to add the line item, it wouldn't be funded this year due to the town's ongoing budget struggles.
"We all want to do the right thing here and we want to see the flags be raised for the armed forces," Selectmen Chairman Stephen Themelis said.
Unless a $1 million Proposition 2 1/2 override passes this spring, town departments will have to cut their budgets by 5 percent, leaving another patriotic display, the town's Memorial Day parade, without funding.
The flags had been hung by Charter Communications for 11 years, but the company backed out in November due to concerns about liability and funding.
The town previously agreed to store the flags for the Fourth of July Committee, which has asked local businesses to take over the duty of hanging the flags.
Selectman Michael Green suggested the town write letters to local businesses in case any are willing to hang the flags.
Selectmen also asked Town Administrator John Moak to look into a system for keeping track of maintenance costs for the town's vehicles.
Green proposed streamlining the way the town handles its vehicle maintenance records so that officials and taxpayers can make better budgeting decisions.
"I think we owe it to the taxpayers to try to better understand what it costs to operate our fleet. When we go to them at Town Meeting and say we need two new cars, we should have records that say we need two new cars because the maintenance costs on the old cars are escalating beyond costs of new cars," Green said.
Vehicle maintenance and purchasing represent some of the highest costs to the town each year after personnel costs. Green said keeping better records of maintenance is necessary to ensure the town is being cost-effective.
"This is something we spend a lot of money on, vehicle maintenance and vehicle purchasing, but we don't really have any standardized way, townwide, that we look at it," Green said.
Resident Phil Durno raised concerns about the feasibility of tracking the data for departments like the Highway Department, which often performs its own maintenance. Without records of the work being done, Durno said, it could be difficult to track the true cost.
Green suggested using the town's computerized payroll system to track vehicle-maintenance work done by town employees.
"My fear is that we may be asking people to do more, spend more time and have actually more costs because we're not tracking it," Green said.
He said compiling the data was the first step toward making any budget decisions.
"I'm not looking to change anything, I'm looking to understand what we're doing because we don't know," Green said.
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