At the Dec. 17 meeting, Representative Simanski and Senator Witkos gave an update on the state legislature, noting that a big push is being made for no more unfunded mandates. A bipartisan budget was finally achieved, ending the fiscal year in the black. Topics that will be raised in the upcoming session include legalization of marijuana, sports betting, minimum wage, and bear issues. The latter predominantly affects the northwest corner of the state, including Granby. Residents who have questions or comments on anything that affects Granby should contact the legislators.
Staff Report – Police Department
Police Chief Carl Rosensweig described the shortcomings of the department with regard to staffing. Although adequate on paper, in reality, some shifts that should be covered by two officers are covered by only one — illness, injuries and pregnancies being the usual reasons for staff absences. The loss of one or two officers affects the entire force, causing some to work extra shifts or come in early or stay late. Rosensweig praised the officers for their compassion in covering at these times, but there is no question it increases fatigue and stress. More state mandates on the department and the increased number of housing units in town also mean possible inadequate coverage, especially in emergencies. Rosensweig gave examples of recent situations in which an officer had to handle a potentially dangerous situation without adequate backup.
School administrators’ contract
The board made no motion in considering the agreement between the Granby Association of School Administrators and the Board of Education July 1, 2019 — June 30, 2022, effectively allowing the contract, which has been ratified and adopted by the union, to stand. The only motion that could have been made would have been to reject the contract, which would lead to arbitration and that would cost time and money and probably not lead to any changes.
The First Selectman recognized Superintendent Alan Addley having been chosen by the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents as the Superintendent of the Year and noted also that the Granby Board of Education received the Leadership Award for the 10th consecutive year.
Correction of land records
The board corrected an error in the land records regarding a parcel of 20,000 square feet of land that was given to the Granby Grange by the developer of the adjoining property.
Homeland Security Grant Program
The board authorized Town Manager Ward to continue to keep the town in the Homeland Security Grant Program Region 3 for the next fiscal year. The program in under the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. Participation is renewed annually.
Kearns Community Center
The board approved the formation of an advisory committee to study the Kearns Community Center proposal. It also authorized writing a letter of intent, with amendments, so that fundraising could begin. See Update on status of Kearns School Community Center in this issue of the Drummer on page 2.
Justice Assistance Grant
The board retroactively approved the application for a 2019 Justice Assistance Grant for Local Violent Crime Prevention. The money will be used to buy software to computerize the program.
The Board approved the call for the annual three-board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 22 in the Senior Center.
In keeping with its emphasis on having more communication and transparency with residents, the board voted to have a public forum on the upcoming budget process. It was held on Monday, Dec. 17 prior to the usual BOS meeting in the Town Hall Meeting Room.
Town Manager Ward presented the board with revised budget goals he developed with Administration Finance Officer Barbarajean Scibelli after the Special Meeting on Nov. 14. They were as follows: 1. provide quality services to the townspeople at the lowest possible costs; 2. budget in full consideration of the town’s capacity to pay; 3. explore alternative methods of providing services, including joint endeavors and shared services; 4. develop a plan to increase unassigned fund balance reserves to meet the Governmental Accounting Standards Board standard of 17 percent; 5. develop a plan to align the number of town employees with the current and future mandates and to offer full, fair and just compensation packages to attract and retain quality employees; 6. expand revenue sources available to the town, including, but not limited to, the Grand List; 7. move away from capital lease borrowing and fund for purchases in the Capital Equipment Improvement Fund.
First Selectman Kuhnly asked if the board should review the goals every year to determine if any adjustments need to be made to reflect the changing community. Selectman Ohannessian noted that the town has a high credit rating. One of the budget goals should state that a commitment to fiscal responsibility and maintance of a positive balance sheet.
At the Dec. 17 meeting, board members’ input resulted in the following changes to the goals: 1. budget in a conservatively and fiscally responsible manner that will provide municipal services to our citizens; 2. explore alternative methods of providing services, including joint endeavors and shared services; 3. provide funding to meet the long-term capital needs of the town and to fund the maintenance of its assets; 4. move away from capital lease borrowing and fund for purchases in the Capital Equipment Improvement Fund; 5. develop a multi-year plan to increase unassigned fund balance reserves to 17 percent; 6. expand revenue sources available to the town, including but not limited to the Grand List.
Town Manager Ward explained that developing a budget in Granby calls for the BOS and BOE to meet with the BOF in December to review expenditure needs and fund balance expectations. In the case of the BOS, this determines what will be needed to sustain town operations, and includes expectations for employee salary and wages (including step increases), employee benefits, and “items of a contractual nature and those deemed important to adequately maintain operations.”
Ward noted that wages will increase by 3.5 percent, fringe benefits 6 percent, and workers compensation 5 percent. He is asking for $100,000 in contingency to partially cover the expenses related to underground oil storage tanks. Additional increases are needed in fire and health services, demolition of condemned property, as well as in tree work, due to the number of aging and dead trees on town roads. Waste and recycling increases are due to contractual obligations and a number of new residences. The town’s operational budget is coming in at around $732,800 as the minimal requirement to maintain town operations; a 6.8 percent increase over the current budget.
Some new expense categories include money for IT operations, especially the study of cyber risks and prevention. In addition, Ward desires to restore the cut backs in library services. These would bring the BOS budget to $799,900, a 7.4 percent increase over the current budget. Ward noted that staff additions in public works and the finance department are necessary, along with another police officer and a school resource officer.
The selectmen approved sending The Plus-One Budget to the BOF for the annual Three-Board Meeting.
Tax collection is on target. The first installment of the Educational Cost Sharing allotment from the State Department of Education has been received and placed in the General Fund. The Board of Education has received $266,000 in tuition.
Building permits are up 344 percent, due to the May 15 hailstorm. A temporary assistant has been hired to help the building department with the increased workload. So far, $292,409 has been collected.
The Ridgewood and Copper Brook developments have added substantially to the grand list without jeopardizing the character of the town.
GAA Agreement With Town
The board approved increasing its support of the Granby Ambulance Association by $15,000 a year. The GAA requested this due to decreasing revenue, increasing costs and the lack of fair reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid patients. The latter reimbursements are typically only 25 percent of actual cost. The town, as per state law, also covers workers’ compensation for GAA volunteers.
GAA Chief of Operations Kate Coupe gave a brief presentation to the board regarding the association’s importance to the town. What began in 1963 as simple transport to area hospitals has evolved to an ambulatory emergency department and intensive care unit that can carry out life-saving treatments including some surgical procedures. Advanced technology now allows transmission of medical data to the hospital, allowing for better preparation for the patient’s arrival. Over 30 medications are stocked in the ambulance pharmacy. The GAA covers East Hartland and East Granby as well as Granby, participating in community events such as Celebrate Granby and providing instructional courses at its building on the corner of Wells Road and Rte. 189.
The board approved Ward’s request to re-submit the non-bridge items (repairs to Holcomb Farm and the Transfer Station, an updated town radio system, and work on Barn Door Hills and Simsbury Roads) to the Capital Project Priority Advisory Committee at its December 20 meeting. These items were originally submitted to CPPAC in February 2018, but Ward noted that it is unclear from meeting minutes as to whether they were included in the vote of approval taken by the board. In addition to the re-submittal, Ward wished to make a couple of minor modifications, as well: the Holcomb Farm project would be expanded to include renovating the bathrooms, extending the porch, repairing the CSA barn roof and installing a fire pit. In lieu of the specific road projects previously submitted, he requests an overall road improvement project.
An insurance appraiser visited the Municipal Complex and Holcomb Farm. Regarding the complex, all the buildings sustained roof damage as well as some instances of siding and window damage, all requiring repair.. Regarding the Farm, the North Barn was deemed fine, but the Main Barn sustained damage from the hail storm. At the time of the BOS meeting, the report on the other farm buildings had not been issued.
Town Manager Reports
Small business loans
Economic Injury Disaster Loans for repairs of damage from the May 15 hailstorm are available from the Small Business Administration up until July 9, 2019. Applications are available at DisasterLoan.sba.gov. No money is available from FEMA.
Plan of Conservation and Development
The inaugural meeting of the Plan of Conservation and Development Implementation Committee was held. Future meetings will be announced and are open to the public. The committee will report back to the BOS.
Reallocation of funds in Capital Facilities account
Ward asked for a motion to reallocate $16,000 from the budget to upgrade the HVAC at town hall. Instead, two painting projects (Cossitt Library and town hall) will be deferred. The motion passed.
The town will be receiving an additional $604,000 over last year in the revenue from the Educational Cost Sharing program to make up for being short-changed the past few years.
Holcomb Farm award
Holcomb Farm received an Award of Excellence from the Connecticut Recreation and Parks Association for its management and physical appearance and upkeep.
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities will hold a seminar at 5:30 in the Park House on Tuesday January, 29. It is open to all CCM member towns, free of charge, but registration is requested. Call the Town Hall at 860-653-5300 for more information or to register.
First Selectman Report
First Selectman Kuhnly expressed appreciation to Jim Hall and the American Legion Post for once again installing the Christmas lights in the center.
Resignations and Appointments
Matt Garrett has resigned from the Development Commission, leaving an opening there as well as one on the Agricultural Commission and one on the Library Board.
David Blanco has resigned from the Tri-Town Cable Television Government Access Committee. Daniel Riesel has been appointed to the committee.
The following have been re-appointed: Erin Pirro to the Agricultural Commission; Patty Sansone, Jean Donihee-Perron, Kathy Miller and Sue Scheopflin to the Commission on Aging; Matt Hamer and Pam Jones to the Library Board and Suzanne Yucha and Kathy Ungerleider to the Parks and Recreation Board.