ROME — Voters at Saturday’s Town Meeting agreed to spend more than $300,000 to buy new trucks for the town’s fire and rescue departments.
About 50 voters agreed to all but two funding requests — rejecting a $50 request from Community Health and Counseling Services and $353 request from the Sexual Assault Crisis & Support Center — during a three-hour-plus meeting that featured lots of questions about how the town spends its money and complaints about winter road maintenance.
Town officials did not know after the meeting the total of spending approved during the meeting, how that compares to last year’s budget and how the spending will affect property taxes. First Selectman Kelly Archer said before the meeting that the current tax rate of $7.20 for each $1,000 worth of property value would increase if voters passed the budget without any changes, but voters rejected a proposal to lower the tax rate that called for using $131,000 from the transfer station reserve account.
Voters approved a pair of articles that will provide the fire and rescue departments with a pair of new vehicles. Residents agreed to spend $261,000 for a new firetruck that holds 1,200 gallons of water and can pump 1,250 gallons per minute. Voters also agreed to spend $45,000 for a new utility backup rescue truck. The town will use a total of $166,000 in savings and raise another $140,000 in taxes to buy the truck.
Fire Chief Gary Foss said the new truck is replacing a 1986 model that has a pump that is failing. Replacing the pump so that it will meet state guidelines that require it to pump 1,000 gallons of water per minute would have cost up to $15,000. Residents briefly discussed replacing the pump and setting aside $50,000 over the next couple of years to help spread out the financial effect of buying a new truck, but Foss argued that the town would wind up spending more money on equipment that would need additional repairs in a just a few years. A new truck, Foss said, will put the department in good condition for the next 20 years.
The utility truck will replace a 1970s-vintage truck, Foss said. The new vehicle will carry more up-to-date equipment, Foss said.
The longest discussion centered on the town’s plowing contract with Larry DiPietro Jr. While there were several general complaints about the condition of the roads, and snowbanks that were not pushed back far enough, residents were particularly perplexed about the selectmen’s decision to pay an extra $1,300 to scrape ice from Route 225 after the December 2013 ice storm. The board decided to remove the ice after a pair of crashes on the road.
Residents told the board the ice removal should have been covered by DiPietro’s contract with the town, but Selectman Paul Anderson said the board believed the project was above and beyond what was required by contract, so it decided to pay DiPietro the additional money.
“Never in my recollection has the snowplow person been required to use a bucket loader to get ice off Route 225,” Anderson said.
DiPietro and the town have a one-year option remaining on the contract. Residents threatened to reject the article that authorized spending $64,000 on the contract in order to force the board to find someone else to plow the town’s road. Anderson said such a move would only lead to unplowed roads next winter.
“They’ll be real unhappy if the roads aren’t plowed,” Anderson said.
DiPietro, who was elected as road commissioner during voting held Friday, would remain the commissioner even if the town were to select someone else for the plow contract, Anderson said.
Anderson said roads rife with potholes and bumps, rather than DiPietro, are to blame for the unsatisfactory snow removal. Moreover, Anderson said, the contract with DiPietro has been financially beneficial.
“We pay less per miles than the neighboring towns do,” Anderson said. “We checked last year we’re paying quit a lot less.”
Craig Crosby — firstname.lastname@example.org