WHITMAN — With winter beginning to take hold, Town Administrator Frank Lynam proposed a change to the budget process for snow and ice removal to the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, Dec. 17.
“Obviously, we are going through some difficult mechanisms right now with the budget,” he said. “However, we start every year in the hole [for snow and ice removal] with the exception of two since 2007.”
The town appropriates $120,000 for snow and ice and the costs, when it hasn’t been able to pay for it have varied from $249,000 to $475,000. He argued that, if the starting budget was increased to $250,000 the town would have still seen nine deficit years out of the last 13; at $300,000 Whitman would have seen five deficit years.
He cautioned, however, that any increase must be looked at in view of how it might affect the current budget.
He urged the board to look at the issue toward deciding whether more money should be committed to snow and ice in order to get an even start to the year. Lynam also provided his cost analysis to the finance committee.
“I’m not looking for a vote, I’m just bringing it forward to say it’s something we need to look at as part of our overall revamp of our budget process,” he said.
Selectmen Vice Chairman Dan Salvucci said he had always been told by the DPW that, once the snow and ice budget was increased, it could never be decreased.
Lynam said that is not correct, but if a town increases the budget line and ends up with a surplus, it would be capped at what that budget is the following year.
“It’s just for the year following the reduction, you’re not permanently enjoined,” he said.
Lynam told the board that he was recently contacted by state officials about their work to update flood maps, including a change in procedures.
Once the maps are updated, the town must update them through its bylaws, according to Lynam.
Building Inspector Bob Currant will be the point person on the project.
Selectmen also heard a report on the Dec. 4 meeting of the New Regional Agreement Amendment Committee.
“What can I say? We met, we dissolved,” Lynam said.
“I will tell you the dissolution of the committee was definitely a … both towns agreed on it and just feel it’s the best way to handle things, the assessment being one of the major hurdles to get over,” said Selectman Randy LaMattina, who attended a Dec. 4 meeting of the committee with Lynam, Selectmen Chairman Dr. Carl Kowalski and their Hanson counterparts.
“We just felt that the towns really needed to happen in a smaller group and tackle that issue rather than take on a whole regional agreement at this time,” LaMattina said.
Lynam reminded the board that informal discussions had been held on the issue previously and he said he was sure that could happen again.
While he said his goal is to ultimately get to the statutory assessment method, but LaMattina said without hard numbers or a measure of voter preference in Whitman, he said Kowalski had recommended a center-lane approach that is neither statutory nor alternative/agreement method. LaMattina, however, argued that the statutory method is the most equitable. Whitman also voted to support the statutory method.
“I know it’s uphill for Hanson,” he said. “It self-corrects. You don’t get into a situation that you go 31 years under an agreement that has really shifted.”