March 1, 2021
PRESENT: B. Scott Kuhnly, Glenn Ballard, Sally King, Mark Neumann, Edward Ohannessian, Town Manager John D. Ward,
Anna Sogliuzzo, 15 Old Orchard Road, addressed the board requesting all board meetings to be recorded on Zoom, as well as GCTV. She thanked Ballard for the efforts he has been making and feels members of the board should be free to express themselves.
On A Motion by King, seconded by Ballard, the board voted (5-0-0) to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of February 16 with the correction under Selectman Reports stating a group of volunteer neighbors provided a report on the website to the Town Manager, not Selectman Ballard as stated. Also, in Public Session, paragraph two, the word mill rate should be added after 0 percent.
Resignations and Appointments to be Considered
On A Motion by Neumann, seconded by Ohannessian, the board voted (5-0-0) to approve the following Republican Town Committee appointment:
Conservation Commission: David Payton (R), 48 Barn Door Hills Road
King asked Kuhnly if she could provide her appointments to boards and commissions.
On A Motion by King, seconded by Ohannessian, the board voted (5-0-0) to approve the following Democratic Town Committee appointments:
Agricultural Commission: Sara A. Esthus (D), 8 Dara Lane, North Granby
Library Board: Katherine D. Watso (U), 11 Evergreen Drive, Granby
Commission on Aging: Marilyn Ann Sponzo (D), 8 Silver Brook Lane, North Granby
Town Manager Reports
Ward reported he included a summary report from Standard and Poor’s in the packets for the selectmen to see what they look at in their ratings. He noted the bonds were successfully sold last week, although the market moved against us in the last few days. They did end up with a premium of $450,000, which has limited uses. It can be used to reduce debt or for other capital projects. The savings did drop from $195,000 to $165,000. The new bonds were affected by having a slightly higher interest rate.
Neumann reported there was no recent legislative action taken in regard to MIRA. There will be no legislative action. At this point, it looks as though it will be left to the town to address the trash issue.
On A Motion by King, seconded by Neumann, the board voted (5-0-0) to move into executive session.
Kuhnly called the Executive Session of the Board of Selectmen to order at 7:31 p.m. to discuss collective bargaining.
PRESENT: B. Scott Kuhnly, Glenn Ballard, Sally King, Mark Neumann, Edward Ohannessian, Administration Finance Officer Kimi Cheng, and Town Manager John D. Ward.
On A Motion by Ohannessian, seconded by Neumann, the board voted (5-0-0) to adjourn at 8:02. p.m.
March 4, 2021 Budget Workshop
First Selectman Kuhnly called the meeting to order at 6 p.m.
PRESENT: First Selectman B. Scott Kuhnly, Glenn Ballard, Sally King, Mark Neumann, Ed Ohannessian and Town Manager John D. Ward.
Also present: Administration Finance Officer Kimi Cheng, Chairman Board of Finance Mike Guarco, and BOF member Frederick Moffa.
Cheng reported on Personal and Property Protection and Health Services, which shows an overall 3 percent increase. There is no personnel change and regular payroll is increased 2.5 percent. There is an increase reported for the Farmington Valley Health District. They show $80,549 for FY-22 and the town budgeted $74,796, which leaves a shortfall of $5,753. It should be noted this information was provided after the budget book was put together and there was no explanation provided regarding the increase. The Farmington Valley VNA shows no increase. The Granby Ambulance Association (GAA) has asked for an increase and it was noted the town gives them $15,000 every year and $20,000 was budgeted for FY22. The CMED and EMD programs show a 2.7 percent increase. Ohannessian asked for an explanation regarding GAA’s request for an increase. GAA representative Lorri DiBattisto reported their costs have increased for health insurance, property coverage and salaries. They are currently $70,000 in the red. When asked how much East Hartland and East Granby contribute, the response was East Granby contributes a 2 to 3 percent increase every year and is now at approximately $48,000 per year. East Hartland does an annual stipend. Neumann reported the Farmington Valley Health District recently requested and was given extra money this year.
Building Official/Zoning Enforcement Officer Joel Skilton reported the Building Department budget has only a minimal increase. The increase is due to office supplies and the training budget, which was increased to allow participation in regular training. He explained 30 hours of training is required every year to maintain certification as a building official. As the new Zoning Enforcement Officer, additional training and education are also needed. In response to a question about building services provided for Hartland, it was explained Hartland pays the town $10,200 annually for building inspections and administration work associated with the building permit process. Abby Kenyon analyzed the actual costs for providing this service for Hartland and has recommended an increase to $16,000.
Fire Marshall Brian Long presented the budget for his office. He works 20 hours per week and is responsible for fire safety, inspections, and fire code review. He reviewed the proposed budget, stating there is a slight increase, which is needed to purchase fire code reference materials. He noted the inspection occupancy and management software in the office is long overdue for an update. The office has applied for a grant through FEMA to fund the software purchase. The cost is $2,300 to $2,400 for the first year and $1,800 each year after. If the grant application is unsuccessful, the funding request may be included in next year’s budget.
Director Abby Kenyon presented the budget for the Emergency Management Office. She explained the office is staffed by the Emergency Management Director who works part-time (five hours per week). He is responsible for updating emergency plans and coordinating the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). This was a busy year for the director as he was instrumental in procuring supplies needed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and monitoring guidance from the state and federal government. The proposed budget is a slight increase from last year, with the contribution to the Emergency Management Fund increasing from $6,000 to $7,920. The fund is used to match a grant from FEMA that funds the Emergency Management Director position.
Fire Chief John Horr, Jr. reported overall call volume is basically flat year to year and did not increase due to COVID. Overall, the department is viable and continues to provide effective fire and rescue services to the town. They are in the process of bringing a new apparatus online—a pickup truck with a utility body that would eliminate the use of personal vehicles for training, equipment recovery and patient carry-out/transport. The department would like to replace a 30-year-old rescue truck soon.
It is in the planning stages regarding upgrades to the Center Fire Station. The station was built in 1987 and has not had any significant upgrades or improvements since that time. In addition, the Lost Acres Fire Department (LAFD) has hired a consultant to begin the process of planning for a new radio system. The first step is getting new frequencies from the FCC. The department needs to be able to communicate with other towns and within town organizations.
Ohannessian inquired about their personnel status. Horr responded as costs continue to rise, they are currently hanging on by a thread. He indicated that the $4,000 increase for FY21-22 will be absorbed by additional testing of ladders and hoses, something the membership has traditionally done will now be outsourced.
Ohannessian inquired if there is anything they need that is not in the budget. Horr responded that the Fire Department does not have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and is not part of the town program. They had a need recently that brought out this shortfall. There was some discussion of possibly hiring a radio consultant to identify the needs for the rest of the town including ambulance, police, Department of Public Works. Coordinating all the services and their needs, along with a dispatch center upgrade, is needed. Regardless of the other town departments, the LAFD has to move to a new system as they can no longer buy new equipment for the current system. There was discussion about a dispatch center for the three towns combined (Granby, East Granby and Hartland), which was done in the past.
Chief Carl Rosensweig reviewed the Department Administration and the Police Operations and Communications budgets. Administration consists of the Chief, the Captain, an Administrative Assistant, and a Records Clerk. There have been no changes. There was some discussion regarding the ongoing accreditation process. There was a question of increased liability for officer’s protection. It was reported officers are still indemnified, but there is still a liability for the Town and it isn’t clear what the impact will be in the future.
Police Operations and Communications have 18 regular payroll and three temporary or part-time dispatchers and an animal control officer, which is the bulk of the department. They are amazing people and Granby is fortunate to have such a dedicated group of professionals. The officers continued to respond to calls for service including accidents, medical emergencies, domestic violence incidents and others despite the risk of COVID-19 exposure.
Ohannessian inquired if hiring another person would eliminate overtime. Rosensweig responded that overtime can never completely be eliminated. What they are really lacking is having a supervisor for all shifts. Neumann asked if they are currently fully staffed. Rosensweig responded they are down one officer right now. It was mentioned the total calls for service were down, most likely due to COVID-19. The average call time could not be determined due to the wide variety of calls.
Social Services Director Sandy Yost reviewed personnel services, noting there are four regular full-time staff (1 FT General Fund and 3 General Fund and Grant supported) and five part-time staff. Temp/part-time payroll is down 24.63 percent and mileage/staff training is down 25.50 percent, both as a result of COVID-19 and the building closure. The overall change is -2.37 percent.
Yost reported this past year has required a revision of how Human Services conducts business. Youth Services offers counseling services for children and their families. When in-person meetings were suspended due to the pandemic, it became necessary to shift to TeleHealth visits and programing continued via Zoom.
Social Services continues to support residents in financial distress by connecting them to existing federal, state and local programs. Senior Services continues to provide the Elderly Nutrition Program as a once a week “grab n go” frozen meal package. Delivery was made by the senior van service to anyone unable to pick up their meal.
Transportation services are still provided for medical appointments and grocery shopping. Many Senior Center members became experts in Zoom, participate in the daily trivia question and access Facebook postings, which include updates on the latest COVID-19 information, as well as interesting online opportunities. In FY19-20, pre-pandemic, the Senior Center/Youth Services building was nearing capacity for every room on every weekday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Creative scheduling and high demand for room turnover and reset required looking for additional space at the Town Hall and Salmon Brook Park. As COVID-19 safety restrictions lift and more people are vaccinated, this demand for space is expected to return. In addition, the department recently worked with FVHD to help seniors with scheduling appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine.
March 8, 2021 Budget Workshop
First Selectman Kuhnly called the meeting to order at 6 p.m.
PRESENT: First Selectman B. Scott Kuhnly, Glenn Ballard, Sally King, Mark Neumann, Edward Ohannessian and Town Manager John D. Ward
Also present: Administration Finance Officer Kimi Cheng, Chairman Board of Finance Mike Guarco, and BOF member Frederick Moffa
Director of Public Works Kirk Severance began the review of his department. Staffing is tight and the addition of a new employee would help the department to keep up with demands. An additional employee has been requested for the past several years due to increased workload. Despite an increase in road mileage and building square footage, staffing has remained the same for several years.
There are approximately 95 miles of town roads that require patching, drainage repairs, line striping, sight-line improvements and repaving/overlay. There are 28 bridges in town, 14 of them are over 20 feet in length and are inspected by the state. The other 14 are less than 20 feet and the state will no longer inspect bridges of that size. Therefore, the department will need to hire a firm to inspect nine of the 14 bridges and the remaining five bridges will be inspected in-house.
Administration includes payroll, professional affiliations, training, copy machine maintenance and office supplies, and shows a 2.37 percent increase. General and Equipment Maintenance shows an increase of 2.70 percent in payroll, which includes regular payroll, seasonal employees and overtime; Services and Supplies decreased by 3.58 percent.
At the time the budget was prepared, there was not a salt concern and gas prices were stable. There is now concern these prices will rise. Contract and Maintenance Service shows a reduction in the Transmission Contract due to an extended warranty, and Special Tool Rental was down due to the department’s inventory, as well as an equipment sharing agreement with local towns.
Solid Waste and Recycling increase is 3.44 percent due to additional residents and contractual agreements. There was discussion regarding the increase of MIRA tipping fees not reflected in the budget book as they were not available. Historically, the department received a refund for recycling but due to the decrease in demand for recyclables, that is no longer the case. Planning and Engineering shows a slight reduction to office supplies. The town hires a Consulting Engineer and a Wetlands Consultant to provide technical services to various town departments, boards and commissions. Infrastructure Maintenance shows an increase in temp/part-time hours and paper and cleaning supplies due to increased building cleaning for COVID-19. Water usage increased due to the recent drought. Overall increase for Infrastructure is 1.8 percent. The department is conducting a new energy audit with the hopes of increasing efficiency.
There was some discussion regarding the MIRA issue. It was noted that Simsbury residents are responsible for their own trash collection arrangements at a cost of approximately $300 to $400 per year. Trash collection in Granby is included with taxes. Ohannessian would like to know if there is something we could do to reduce the cost.
Lorri DiBattisto from Granby Ambulance Association gave an overview of the organization and its $1.7M operating budget. Total calls last calendar year included 137 transports to area hospitals. The remaining non-transport calls include medical assessments, lift assists, etc. About 60 percent of the association’s income comes from insurance and patient payments; 26 percent from Medicaid and Medicare payments; 8 percent from fundraising and memorial donations, and 6 percent from town annual fees.
Salaries and benefits were 48 percent of the budget in 2009 and are now 70 percent of the budget. GAA employs four full-time paramedics, three full-time EMTs, 14 per diems to fill in the vacancies and one administrative staff person. The association is currently running at a deficit of $70,000. The biggest challenge is the increased salary base and benefits. It was noted GAA receives $48,000 from East Granby, $4,500 from East Hartland and $15,000 from Granby every year. Per capita cost breaks down to $9 per person in East Granby, $3 per person in East Hartland and $1.37 per person in Granby. The radio system is aging, and GAA is working on replacement radios for their vehicles, as well as adding portables. Forty-eight percent of the total calls last year were in Granby.
Library Director Amy McCue reviewed Library Services. She said the annual budget is about $580,000 and supports four full-time staff members and about 9.5 FTEs, which includes the many part-time staff members who do the majority of public-facing tasks. In addition, it funds the books, audio books, movies, magazines, eBooks, eAudio books, eMagazines, databases, computers, software, copy machines, fax machines and other items patrons use when they visit the library. As a result of COVID-19, the library staff was able to prioritize the needs of patrons and focus on helping them learn how to use the new technology required once everything seemed to go on Zoom.
Program participation increased 39 percent over the previous year. The staff has served over 2,500 curbside pick-up appointments to date. The major change in the library budget falls in the payroll budget that is impacted by mandatory minimum-wage increases and union contracts. Requests in the Services and Supplies lines were kept to a minimum to help balance out those necessary increases, keeping the overall requested increase at 4.11 percent.
Outside of payroll, the only other proposed increase is $3,000 to soften the impact of the continually rising book and audio book prices, technology changes and repair and increasing costs of online databases. It was noted the part-time staff was reduced this past year to reduce cost but will re-hire when the library reopens.
A grant was received to improve internet connection at the Cossitt Library. There were questions about how the grant is accounted for and Kimi Cheng explained the money will be spent this fiscal year. Ohannessian also asked for a breakdown of the salaries for clarification and Cheng will provide the information at the next meeting.
Kristine Vincent, Director of Park and Leisure Services, reported there are three full time staff members. Only the salary of the director is listed in the regular payroll as the two other full-time staff member salaries are paid through program fees, as is everything else. Measures of activity for the upcoming budget have been challenging to predict. Vincent is setting the predicted measures of activity back to the actuals of the 2018-19 budget with some minor adjustments. The hope is that once summer begins, restrictions will be lightened somewhat. Any rentals at Holcomb Farm, the gathering rooms or pavilions have been for smaller parties, showers, etc.
Some notables that generate revenue for the Recreation Fund are bus trips, youth sports, youth sport clinics, adult activities and Salmon Brook Park. The park alone represents 45.7 percent of the revenue and 14.3 percent of expenses. This is their summer day camp program, and it was not held this past summer. Holcomb Farm represents 14 percent of revenue and a quarter of a percent of expenses. In the past, the Park and Recreation fund balance has always kept the department operational.
In addition, recognizing economic reality, the Recreation and Leisure Services Department has been absorbing costs of the larger recreation facilities maintenance and repairs/upgrades using funds from this account. There was discussion about the Park and Recreation use of the Fund Balance and how it is listed in the budget.
Ohannessian has asked for clarification from Cheng about the Ambulance Association increase, the Dog Fund, and the payroll breakdown for the library. Ohannessian inquired about the Farmington Valley Health District (FVHD) and the contribution they recently asked for and received from the town. Neumann responded it is a Farmington Valley District problem, not the federal government and it is another unfunded mandate. Cheng responded that the FVHD requested an increase due to the decrease in grant funding and the increase in their operating budget. Two one-time grants were received in FY21. Cheng will report on the other inquires for the next meeting.
Kuhnly thanked everyone for their presentations and closed the workshop at 7:39 p.m.
John D. Ward, Town Manager