ASHBY — Residents attending the four-hour Annual Town Meeting on May 3 voted to include three Proposition Two and a half override proposals in a special town election to be held later this spring.
Voters decided to include a request for $54,753.59 to hire another firefighter/EMT. Fire Chief Bill Seymour said that because there is only one full-time employee in the department, he is unable to properly staff the ambulance.
Former selectman Gerry Houle said the town could generate a revenue stream of approximately $30,000 annually by taking calls that otherwise would be handled by another ambulance. After the first year, this difference would go into the town budget, he said.
Residents granted a request for Highway Department Superintendent Bill Davis for a $38,966.44 Proposition Two and a Half override vote to fund another truck driver/laborer. The department was cut back last year, leaving only one employee for every 10 miles of town road.
Voters also decided to include a request for a “debt exemption” override in the amount of $28,957 to purchase a police cruiser. Police Chief Paul Lundin said that if this cruiser is bought, there will be no need for another cruiser until fiscal year 2011, unless something unforeseen such as a car accident occurs.
If passed, an override for the cruiser is a one-time override. Overrides for personnel are in perpetuity, Selectman Geoff Woollacott said. Finance Committee Chairman Rebecca Walsh said that if an override for a position is passed at the town election, after the first year that money would be a permanent part of the town budget and would not be earmarked exclusively for any one position.
Three override articles were defeated in town meeting. Voters will not be asked to approve overrides for $11,000 to fund band concerts and Memorial Day expenses. Articles for $3,100 for stipends for Board of Health members and $4,992 to pay a part-time library page were also defeated.
An override article for $23,196.20 to pay for an increase over 2 percent in the North Middlesex Regional School District budget was postponed indefinitely. The amount requested by the school district decreased after the selectmen had approved the articles for the town meeting.
Residents approved the $5.2 million town budget with an amendment to take $11,000 from the stabilization fund to fund the band concerts and Memorial Day celebrations (instead of paying those expenses through an override). An amendment to cut the town administrator’s salary from $52,195.75 to $25,000 was defeated.
Several times during discussion on the amendments, residents started to address the fire truck issue. The town lost nearly $350,000 when a Wisconsin company failed to deliver a special-order truck. The moderator, Peter S. Rourke, asked people to stay focused on the issue at hand.
Townspeople had a chance to hear from the Ashby Public Safety Facility Building Advisory Committee. The group has been meeting regularly for the last several months.
Committee member Jim Mullins said that the present facilities were “a lawsuit waiting to happen” and that the committee has prepared a video that is available at the library. Options for new facilities range from all-new construction for the Fire and Police departments at a cost of $5.8 million to a new police facility for $3.1 million.
Other items at the town meeting included town reports, money transfers and other routine items. Woollacott presented a slide show on the town’s finances and described why they cannot be sustained under the present model.