TOWNSEND — The Capital Planning Committee questioned its role in the budgetary process when the recommendations they made for capital projects were changed by the Board of Selectmen.
Selectmen funded a $206,000 radio update for fire and police and allocated another $60,000 for other capital projects at their April 10 meeting. The radio project was fifth in priority on the list recommended by capital planning.
The original priority list was compiled from scores provided by each committee member after hearing from department representatives and presented to selectmen on March 13.
The score sheet was based on Massachusetts Department of Revenue information, member Carolyn Smart said.
A fuel-management system for the highway barn was first on the list. Two projects at the West Townsend Reading Room and a self-funded Water Department request made the top five.
“Clearly the board was surprised when they looked at the priority list. It didn’t make any sense to them,” Town Administrator Andy Sheehan said during the April 19 Capital Planning meeting.
Selectmen need to be involved in the process because there cannot be a disconnect between the operating and capital budgets, he said.
“The law says the selectmen in conjunction with the town administrator shall make (capital budget) decisions,” Sheehan said.
“If that’s the case, what’s the point of this committee?” member Andrea Wood asked.
“If we do all this work, it should come back to us if it needs more work,” Vice Chairman Lorna Fredd said.
“Members of this committee were pilloried and denigrated and after all the energy that went in I didn’t think that was appropriate,” she said of the selectmen’s meeting.
Repeated attempts were made to keep the Capital Planning meeting on task.
“Hang on. Order. Everybody will get a chance,” Chairman Jed Coughlin said at one point when committee members interrupted Sheehan.
“They set a budget of $266,000 and we’re here to go through it,” Smart said.
The committee asked if the entire amount for the radio project needs to be funded this spring.
“I have pointed questions as far as the $206,000. Not everything that’s being requested is mandated,” Fredd said.
“There’s equipment in there beyond the needs of the mandate, however there are upgrades that need to take place,” Sheehan said.
A new repeater and replacement of parts of the other antenna are not part of the mandate and could perhaps be funded in the fall, Smart said.
“My problem is a vendor is in charge of telling him what he needs,” she said. The estimate is based on a quote provided by Beltronics Inc., a company on the state bid list.
“I think it would be politic to ratchet (the requested amount) down some,” Fredd said.
Coughlin asked if the fire and police chiefs can resubmit the plan and include the $109,000 for the repeater in a five year plan.
“I will talk to the chiefs and see if it is possible to pull the repeater site if that is the question,” Sheehan said.
The new repeater site would allow town-wide radio coverage.
“Ask if $109,000 is a discounted amount. I have a lot of friends and family in town, I’d rather there be no coverage gaps,” member Colin McNabb said.
Fredd and Smart will re-enter and re-tabulate the scores prior to the next Capital Planning meeting to be held at 6 p.m. on April 24 just before the selectmen’s meeting.
No recommendations were made.