Potential cuts in services and increase in taxes, town manager warns

Print More
By Shirley Murtha
As the town prepared for the annual Three Board Meeting (Education, Finance and Selectmen) on Jan. 23, Town Manager Bill Smith noted that with the state budget in deficit, aid to towns will be greatly curtailed. For example, mid-2016 saw $50,000 worth of cuts to the Educational Cost Sharing program. Similar cuts will be seen across the board; towns will have to make up the differences by increasing local taxes and/or by cutting services.
In preparing for the development of the Plus One budget, Smith and his staff calculate preliminary estimates based on contractual mandates and anticipated staffing needs. There are increased costs in all departments. Of particular concern, noted Smith, is that there is not adequate staff to handle the state mandates. For example, Kerry Ann Kielbasa’s retirement has left the town without a full time replacement in human resources.
In attempting to stay within last year’s budget guidelines, the town budgeted $74,000 for road salt. As of Jan. 17, town roads had been treated 12 times, at a cost of $77,000. A transfer of funds will be necessary to obtain the material needed to adequately treat the roads for the remainder of the winter season.
Other items of concern include the $50,000 in costs to keep the closed Kearns School from degradation,  needed storm water work, and upgrading technology, especially with the Board of Education. In addition, Smith continues to hope for some add backs, including needed staffing in the police and public works departments and a restoration of library services that were cut in the 2009-10 budget. Because the state is fiscally unsound, grants for these and other projects will be adversely affected.
Public Hearing on Storm Water
Public hearings on the Storm Water Illicit Discharge and Connections Ordinance were held prior to the regular BOS meetings in November. The proposed ordinance will provide for the health and safety of Granby residents, and is in compliance with a state mandate issued by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency.
Although more important in communities that have a lot of discharge from industry, it also covers the normal storm water run-off in residential areas, which involves every catch basin in town.
Director of Community Development Fran Armentano worked with Public Works Director Kirk Severance, Town Engineer Kevin Clark, the Conservation Commission and the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission to determine how to best regulate this issue. One way is to educate residents on what they can do to keep storm water as clean as possible. Selectman Lofink noted that the University of Connecticut has a site related to this issue.
Upstream Properties Presentation
Upstream Properties presented an overview of its proposed housing development on Salmon Brook Street to the board at its Jan. 17 meeting in preparation for an eventual request for sewer allocation and access easements. Many residents attended the meeting, some to speak against the development, some to speak in favor of it, and others impartial but asking that the town further study the impact of such a development. Fran Armentano closed the session by presenting the viewpoint of the Development Commission (see his opinion piece on p. 3 of this issue of the Drummer.)
Annual Report of FVHD
Jennifer Kertanis presented an annual review of the Farmington Valley Health District to the board at its Nov. 21 meeting. The agency consists of 10 towns and has a staff of 12. Pat Chieski and Diane Hernsdorf are the Granby representatives. The agency is responsible for monitoring the health status of the community with regard to food establishments, salons, septic and well water. It tracks infectious diseases, and educates for disease prevention and also establishes protocol preparations for large scale emergencies. A large part of its work is to enforce the Connecticut General Statutes regarding health as well as the Public Health Code.
This year, graduate public health students from Yale helped the agency complete the first phase of a community health assessment that will serve as a planning document for public health programs and services. Chronic disease and diseases associated with aging were at the forefront for the Granby community.
Another concern for our community this past year was the ongoing drought. Ten wells in Granby were adversely affected and private well owners are encouraged to conserve water. There will be more problems if the drought continues.
During 2016, the agency established Resilience Grows Here, a program focused on the needs of veterans and their families. The program goals center around reducing veteran isolation, recognition of post traumatic stress and increasing access to programs.
The state Commissioner of Public Health has introduced the concept of further regionalizing the local health districts. There are 20 districts at present, and 73 individual as cities have their own. So far, the proposal remains in the discussion stage.
Resignations and Appointments
The board regretfully accepted the resignation of Town Treasurer Roger Hernsdorf and expressed appreciation for the job he has done. John Adams was sworn in as the new treasurer in December.
Chris Roughton has resigned as an alternate to the Zoning Board of Appeals and Abby Roughton has resigned from the Parks and Recreation Board.
Kent McCord was appointed to fill the vacancy on the Conservation Commission and Phil Main was appointed to the Commission on Aging. The following re-appointments were approved: Kathryn Miller and Patricia Sansone, Commission on Aging; Matt Brady, Conservation Commission; Kathy Ungerleider and Suzanne Yucha, Parks and Recreation Board; Ellen Whitlow, Agricultural Commission and James Caldwell, Development Commission.
First Selectman Scott Kuhnly expressed thanks to the Parks and Recreation staff for producing the annual holiday tree-lighting program, including singers, refreshments and Santa. He also noted that Town Assessor Susan Altieri has again received the Continuing Service Award from the state.
At the Jan. 17 meeting, the School Buildings Committee was recognized for its outstanding work in overseeing the renovation of the Kelly Lane and Wells Road schools needed due to the closing of Kearns.
Public Sessions
Robert Fetzer spoke to the board regarding what he believes are wasteful practices with regard to the town’s vehicle purchases. He noted that the personal use of such vehicles represents a lack of respect for the town’s assets.
Susan Regan asked that the public be kept informed of the number of candidates being considered for the town manager position. She also believes residents should have access to each candidate’s resume, credentials, potential salary and benefits.
Bill Regan presented figures outlining the expenses of operating the town’s transfer station, his calculations resulting in a cost of $85,000. He noted that the Town of Simsbury’s transfer station is managed by Paine’s at no cost to the town. He suggested that Granby contract out the management of our transfer station to save considerable money.