At the March 5 meeting of the Board of Selectmen, Town Manager John Ward gave an update on the status of the action regarding the use of the former Evonsion property. As reported in the last issue of the Drummer, three RFPs (Request for Proposal) had been submitted within the due date of January 31. The RFPs had been posted on various agricultural websites, in the Hartford Courant, and on other local media. The criteria on which the proposals were judged were: completeness, experience, success, access to equipment and financing, appropriateness and community benefit.
The proposals from the House of Hayes and Rockwood Farm (Woodger) are for long-term lease of 25 years or more. The Hayes proposal offers $10,000 per year plus a 1 percent increase per year; the Rockwood offers $14,000 per year but is incomplete with the amount increase left as negotiable. The proposal from Westmeadow (Vaughan) was for purchase at $1.25 million. The proposals from Hayes and Rockwood cite the intention of rotating crops for silage; the Vaughan proposal involves the establishment of an organic dairy farm, including the building of a barn.
Ward noted that all three proposals were appropriate. If the board was to decide in favor of a lease arrangement, he favored the Hayes proposal based on the long-standing presence of the family in Granby (eight generations) and the success of its operations to date.
Prior to a lengthy session of public comment, the board members gave their personal thoughts. Mark Neumann favors the Westmeadow proposal as the best financially for the town. Sally King noted that if the property is purchased, the town loses control over what happens there, to which First Selectman Kuhnly replied that the town would retain development rights and that a conservation easement would preclude future development.
Jim Lofink said that he needed more information. While admitting that it is hard to not choose in favor of organic farming, Ed Ohannessian noted that he struggles with the idea that the sale would be breaking the lease arrangement the Hayes now have with the town, of which one year remains. He continued, “We bought this property as a hedge against future need. It could be used as the site of a future school or additional sports fields. If the town sells, we have no asset but still have to pay the bond we acquired for its purchase.”
Director of Community Development Fran Armentano noted that the State of Connecticut has expressed interest in the possible purchase of the development rights to 107 East Street. It approved and will use the appraisal obtained by Granby in determining the amount of its offer. As of March 21, the State had not made an offer.
After the public comments, (see ____), a motion made by King to further study the Hayes and Vaughan proposals was approved. It was decided to ask the Agriculture and Development Commissions, the Board of Finance and the Planning and Zoning Commission for their input.
School Security Project
Board of Education vice-chairman Mark Fiorentino presented the BOE’s request for an additional appropriation of $75,372 to complete a multi-phase project that began several years ago to enhance security at the district’s four schools. The appropriation was approved.
Trash Barrel Purchase
The board approved the allocation of approximately $10,000 for the purchase of additional trash barrels from Paine’s. When the town needs barrels, it orders them at the same time that Paine’s places an order to take advantage of the bulk pricing. The money will come from the Solid Waste Fund, which will have approximately $254,200 remaining after the purchase.
Town Manager Ward presented an update on the budget process. On December 4, 2017, the BOS adopted his proposed Plus One of $10,948,100. This represented an increase over the current budget of $473,100, or 4.5 percent. On February 12, the Board of Finance set a 2.12 percent increase over the $10,475,000 FY17-18, which amounts to $223,000. Ward’s latest budget meets that guideline by way of significant cuts and comes in at $10,697,751 for total municipal operations.
In December, 2017, department heads presented requests requiring an additional $773,548, but to meet the guideline, $551,000 had to be cut. The areas of reduction are as follows: fringe benefits for new employees and changes in employee insurances; contingency account with regard to Kearns School and Ambulance Association; fire department upgrade funding and no addition of full-time marshal; police department position of records clerk eliminated and denial of two requested positions; library service wage reductions that will likely lead to reduced hours; social services youth services payroll; public works regarding purchase of salt, gasoline, diesel and equipment parts.
Also, the Assessor’s office regular payroll was reduced due to a retirement, but the remaining funds are probably not adequate to get experienced help for the office. There is also reduction in contract property inspections. The office may have to close if both employees have to be out at the same time. Property inspections may be delayed.
Ward expressed his gratitude to the staff, especially Barbarajean Scibelli, Pat Chieski, Susan Christian and Fran Armentano, for their work on the budget process. First Selectman Kuhnly also praised Scibelli, who he described as the “best in the state” for producing an exemplary budget with “no fluff.” and remarked that Granby does “more and more with less and less year after year” considering the continued reductions in state aid.
Regarding state funding, Ward noted that Granby was denied the senior van grant described in last month’s BOS report. The town’s application for special transportation funds was also denied. The State’s Municipal Revenue Sharing Accounts (MRSA) for both Sales Tax and Motor Vehicle will also not be funded.
At the March 19 BOS meeting, the board voted to forward the budget to the Board of Finance, having met the 2.1 percent increase guideline and been discussed at the various budget workshops. It included addbacks of $50,000 for the Lost Acres Fire Department, $18,500 for a part-time Police Department Records Clerk, $8,100 for the Libraries and $15,000 for Social Services. Copies of the budget report are available at Town Hall and the libraries.
Budget Presentations to the Board of Finance took place on March 26 at the Senior Center Community Room. The Public Hearing on the budget will be held April 9 at 7 p.m. in the Granby Memorial High School Auditorium.
Appointments and Resignations
Ron Windsor has been appointed to the Inlands Wetlands and Watercourses Commission.
The BOS reporter was assisted by Susan Christian and Sally King for the March 19 meeting.