GROTON — The reverberations of former Chairman Steven Webber’s departure were felt by the Finance Committee this week when member Michael Flynn was told not to participate in reviewing the Fire Department’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2007 because his son is a volunteer.
The point came from administrative officer Jean Kitchen as the committee conducted its second round of budget reviews.
At an earlier meeting, Flynn and fellow member Stuart Shuman had objected to Webber’s presence on the committee because of a conflict of interest.
Webber resigned from the committee on Jan. 26, but has continued attending meetings as an observer.
Tuesday’s meeting opened with Chairman Georgiana Cochran asking that any member with a personal interest in issues being discussed leave the room pending deliberations.
Heeding Cochran’s request, Shuman recused himself during a review of the library’s budget since his wife, Owen, serves as library director.
Meanwhile, town officials replaced him with former Recreation Department Chairman Peter DiFranco. DiFranco appeared near the end of the meeting to discuss his application to fill the spot.
“The position interests me, and it’s another way for me to give back to the community,” said DiFranco.
In the wake of a decision to discontinue the Recreation Department, DiFranco said he approached the Board of Selectmen’s office to ask if there were any positions open on any other group in town. He felt the Finance Committee would suit him best.
His job as a project manager for Raytheon where he is responsible for over $150 million in spending qualified him for the position, said DiFranco.
The committee will take a week to consider DiFranco’s application. It expects to make a decision on whether to recommend him to the selectmen for the empty seat at its Feb. 14 meeting.
Also Tuesday, the committee continued its review of departmental budget proposals for 2007 with the Sewer Commission, Parks Commission, Fire Department, Highway Department and library on tap.
First up was the Sewer Department represented by sewer commissioners James Gmeiner and Tom Hartnett. They told the board they were expecting an increase in the Sewer Department’s budget from $718,842 to $862,608.
Many factors contributed to the increase, said Gmeiner, including $100,000 dedicated to upgrading the Nod Road pump station, a line extension along Boston and Old Ayer roads, manhole maintenance and repair, upgrade remote meter reading equipment and a 7 percent rate increase covering operating and treatment costs at the new Pepperell wastewater treatment plant.
In addition, sewer usage services in town were declining, and it was effecting revenue, said Gmeiner. The situation could be offset if and when the new Residential Gardens housing complex on Mill Street is occupied.
Parks Commissioner Donald Black said his budget does not really change from year to year. Much of the expense of maintaining the town’s playing fields and other facilities was covered by local volunteers and private donations totaling $153,000 in 2006.
Nevertheless there were expenses, said Black, such as the purchase of a safety barrier to be placed atop fences at the little league fields, Porta-potty rentals and tree removal.
Black also said he would like to add a full time maintenance worker to the payroll, “but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.”
Fire Chief Joseph Bosselait was next with a proposed FY07 budget of $768,147, an increase over this year’s $728,497.
Bosselait would like to hire a new full-time fireman for his department with a plan to find the money to pay for it within his existing budget.
“We thought it was very important to go for this extra person,” said Bosselait.
Highway Surveyor Thomas Delaney said he expected only a slight rise in spending over 2006 with the increase due mostly to repairs to the highway garage doors, the snow and ice removal budget, and utilities.
Overall, the Highway Department budget for 2007 would increase from $824,000 to $887,171, not counting the cost of two full-time laborers that Delaney would like to add to his workforce next year.
Hiring a new employee was also on the library’s wish list. Library Director Owen Shuman asked the committee to consider her request to create a new young adult librarian position at a cost of $35,000 per year.
Although utility and state-mandated book purchase expenses are expected to rise in the coming year, Shuman said a hike in the library’s late book fees from 5 cents to 10 cents has helped revenues.
If the young adult librarian position were to be approved, the new position would make up most of the increase in the library’s budget for 2007 from $643,687 to a proposed $699,916.