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Town meeting okays use of unexpected cash

PEPPERELL — Since the last town meeting in May, Pepperell grew a little bit more than was foreseen and has some free cash to use.

The deficit is still around $300,000, said Michael Green, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, but some of the articles on the warrant of the Oct. 27 town meeting will allocate free cash to departments that are functioning on a reduced level.

Town Moderator Scott Blackburn said that when the budget is set in the spring, the state has not said how much it will give the town in aid. At the fall town meeting, that number is known, as are any increases in revenue and the amount of free cash can be certified.

“This money isn’t grabbed out of the air,” he said. “That’s how the town grows monetarily.”

Voters approved $77,245 for supplemental budgets for fiscal year 2015. General government got an additional $16,595, public works an increase of $17,500, $17,741 went to public safety, culture and recreation got $9,260 and the ambulance service got $9,260.

Two other articles will enable the town to look at selling some town-owned property to pay one-time expenses.

Article 10 allowed $10,500 for appraisals of town properties. The next article budgeted $9,750 to hire a consultant to create a request for proposals for the properties once the appraisals are done.

“Anything that happens to these properties has to come back to town meeting for a decision,” Green said.

Two articles, both related to raises for town employees, were passed. Rather than rely on voice votes, the moderator chose to have voters stand to be counted.

A new compensation plan raised wages 2 percent. Because the new wage will not go into effect until the last week in December, the real impact for the year is 1 percent, said Town Administrator John Moak.

Town Meeting voted to appropriate $14,250 to cover the raises. The Finance Committee did not recommend the increase.

“We recognize with reduced staffing people are working harder,” said Melissa Tzanoudakis, chairman of the Finance Committee, “We get that.

“Facing a fiscal crisis, raising salaries is not something we can support at this time,” she said.

Selectmen honored the departing town administrator with a proclamation. Moak resigned months ago, but remained with the town part-time.

Other articles passed included $7,500 to cover additional costs at 52 Lowell Road, a property taken by the town for taxes.

One unpaid bill of $129.11 owed to Lorden True Value Hardware by the animal control officer was approved for payment.

Town meeting allowed a payment of $1,256.38 to pay outstanding invoices from National Grid and TransCanada by the water division.

The lessee/operator of the solar photovoltaic energy generating facility at the capped town dump will be allowed to make payments in lieu of taxes on the town-owned property the solar array will occupy.

Town Hall is in need of a new fire alarm system. Voters approved $8,900 to replace the system dating from the 1970s.

The transfer budget was amended down from $352,544 to $315,544 to more accurately reflect expected revenue. Thanks largely to savings in the solid waste disposal contract, the department has met its expenses, said Ken Kalinowski, director of public works after the meeting.

Two state statutes were accepted. One allows licensees to sell liquor between the hours of 10 a.m. and noon on Sundays and some holidays.

The other statute entitles members of the Reserves to receive vacation pay in addition to military pay for 17 days of service a year.

Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter and Tout @a1oconnor.

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