PEPPERELL — While the 2011 budget shortfall is expected to be much more manageable than anticipated, Selectman Patrick McNabb recently brought before the board five suggestions for potential cost savings.
His suggestions include:
* Requiring Town Administrator John Moak to talk with departments about switching to direct deposit of pay checks.
“This easily saves us $5,000 without hurting anyone. The only negative is a week’s delay on the first check. I want to work with unions to agree,” McNabb said.
Chairman Joseph Sergi agreed, noting that time spent by administrative staff processing of written checks would be saved.
* Talk with DPW unions regarding concessions.
“They still got a three percent increase last year. There were library union concessions and police unions (also helped),” McNabb said. “This is not to target one union. There should be a level playing field. The other (unions) stepped up. (It’s better) than people losing job.”
* Improving Town Hall’s energy efficiencies, for example, replacing the boiler that malfunctioned last year.
Moak said the interior Town Hall improvement account still has $126,000 left over from heating and air conditioning work eight years ago.
“I wouldn’t ask Town Meeting for a new boiler when there is money left with the bond being paid down to two years,” Moak said.
Sergi cautioned that the money shouldn’t be spent all at once given the need for future Town Hall renovations.
“For example, we’re thinking of closing the annex (the former mobile home, which houses the Board of Health and veterans agent) and bringing people in here,” Selectman Joseph Hallisey said.
Boiler replacement is OK “if things are on their last legs and natural gas is cheaper,” McNabb said,
Moak suggested and the board concurred that it is best to hire someone to assess the building.
* Shutting Town Hall down on Fridays.
“Some people may lose pay but they’ll still have a job and benefits,” McNabb said.
* Reviewing the Department of Public Works
“When the unified DPW began in 2001 it was done to save the town money. Are we?” McNabb asked.
“If not, I don’t know the answers either way,” he added.
“One thing I hear a lot is people asking why the water and sewer rates go up when there is money in (DPW) free cash,” he said.
Serge concurred because he also hears similar complaint.
“I support a thorough review, probably deferring to John (Moak) because (the board’s available time) is declining what with the schools and the mill project. A review of a department shouldn’t threaten anyone if it’s working efficiently,” Sergi said.
“I agree. If there’s nothing to hide it’ll validate things. It’s common sense,” McNabb said.