Fewer hours for fire chief, librarian, rec director?

By Lisa Williams Ackley
Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — Like other surrounding communities, the Town of Fryeburg is trying to best address what its taxpayers can afford and the realities of these tough economic times.

It is not an easy task, to say the least.

The municipal budget of $6,774,760.64 presented by Town Manager Sharon Jackson is $143,528.64 more than was appropriated by voters in 2010.

However, some municipal departments will see their budgets increased, if voters approve the town manager’s recommendations at the annual town meeting in mid-June, while others will show a significant decrease.

One new proposal the town manager is making this year is to pay for the town’s capital budget out of Surplus.

“That would be one way not to increase the budget,” said Jackson.

Jackson, who has been in her post one year as of March 22, is recommending reducing the hours of the full-time fire chief, librarian and recreation director from 40 hours to 32 hours per week. Those are the only municipal employees who face a reduction of their work hours.

As in other areas of the budget, Jackson told selectmen and the budget committee that now that she has worked here for an entire year, she has been able to assess what is needed, in order to perform necessary duties and adequately provide services for townspeople.

As to why she is recommending eight fewer hours per week for the full-time fire chief, Jackson said at the March 30 Budget Committee meeting, “I don’t look at the person in the position, I look at what’s needed,” said Jackson. Saying she checked out every town in Oxford County that has a full-time fire chief, which aren’t all that many she said, Jackson stated, “I didn’t touch services. However, I do think the administrative duties of that job can be done in 32 hours. Yes, I do. We are one of the few towns in Oxford County with a full-time fire chief. I’m not reducing the number of hours the chief puts in, if a call comes in — he still goes to fire calls.”

Jackson stated that the same can be said for the librarian’s position and that of the recreation director, as is true for the fire chief’s job — all three can be performed, in her professional opinion, in 32 hours not 40 hours, per week.

3% raises for all but the town manager?

The town manager is also recommending that all town employees, except for her, receive a three percent increase in wages — why?

“They have had no (pay) increase, in three years,” Jackson told selectmen and Budget Committee members here April 4. “That’s less than 1%, in four years.”

Selectman Rick Eastman praised Jackson for the work she has accomplished in the past year and said he would propose a 3% raise for the town manager, as well.

“Sharon has done a super job trying to get this town back on track and build this budget and administration,” Eastman said.

“We are light years ahead of where we were,” said Chairman Tom Klinepeter. “I have to agree with Rick.” Selectman Ed Wilkey was unable to attend Monday night’s joint meeting with the selectmen and Budget Committee.

Solid Waste will see a major decrease this year of $50,285.45, according to Jackson.

“We’re eliminating two part-time positions and only have two full-time individuals” at the transfer station/recycling facility, Jackson said. “We don’t need four people there anymore. We’ll always have two people on staff there.”

When the subject of electricity came up, Jackson said, “I did a two-year comparison of electricity use for all departments.”

The town has been trying single-sort recycling, on a six-month trial basis, and Jackson said that, as a result, she expects disposal fees of household trash to decline. Voters will decide in June whether or not they want to continue with single-sort recycling on a year-round basis.

“The amount of recyclable items we’re taking in because of single-sort (recycling) is a lot more than we expected it to be,” the town manager said.

Public Works Director Gary Whitten said that last year the Town of Fryeburg recycled 200 tons for the entire year.

“And, we’re in the slow months right now, and we’ve recycled 300 tons, so far,” said Whitten. “That’s 25 tons a month (over 12 months).”

Voters appropriated $97,605.58 for disposal of household solid waste in 2010, and Jackson is recommending reducing that amount to $88,000 in 2011/2012.

“We actually think it’s going to cost a lot less than the $88,000,” said Jackson. “The same (goes) for (disposal fees for) demo.”

Demolition debris disposal was $37,000 last year, and Jackson recommends budgeting $35,000 this year. She is projecting the single sort recycling disposal fees to be $8,816 in 2011/2012, at $19 per ton for eight tons (58 roll-off containers).

Hauling costs budgeted for solid waste, recyclable items and demolition debris is as follows: $29,000 for solid waste ($31,000 last year); $17,400 for demolition debris hauling ($18,400 last year); and $6,380 for disposal of recyclable items ($110 per haul for 58 roll-off containers).

The Solid Waste account also shows a never before budgeted amount of $20,000 for wood disposal fees, as the town previously burned its wood waste but is no longer allowed to do that, Jackson said.

There is also a requested amount of $12,000 for equipment at the transfer station which Jackson said is to finish backhoe repairs, foam fill the back tires, purchase new front tires and foam fill, as well as a hood and dipper bucket.

Town Manager Jackson and Whitten worked together earlier this year and came up with a plan, since approved by the selectmen, to combine the Highway Department and Transfer Station under one umbrella as the Public Works Department with Whitten overseeing both areas — highway and solid waste/recycling.

“The combination of the two departments is a savings of $30,000,” Jackson stated, “and it’s because we’re reducing staff from both (highway/public works and solid waste/recycling).”

Public Works

Jackson further explained the $30,000 in projected savings, when she detailed the changes in the Public Works Department highway crew.

“Both departments are under the supervision of one person (used to be two supervisors), and we developed job descriptions,” said Jackson. “The transfer station employees will have Class 2 (Class B) licenses, so they can plow if needed. There are four full-time employees now, rather than three full-time and two part-time. The purpose is to have fully trained persons who can operate big equipment.”

Insurances (not health insurance, but rather vehicle, property and other types of insurance) for all town departments have been moved to one account, according to Jackson.

“Insurance totals $35,000 town-wide and is now in the Miscellaneous account,” Jackson said.

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