WATERVILLE — City councilors Tuesday got a first look at a proposed $3.6 million public works budget for 2019-20 that reflects a $103,000 increase from the $3.5 million budget approved last year.

The 2.9% increase is primarily attributed to wages and benefits, according to City Manager Michael Roy.

He and Public Works Director Mark Turner noted at the council budget workshop that the proposed public works budget is less than the budget was three years ago.

Turner has been able to keep the budget from increasing much over the last few years because the cost of supplies, including salt and sand, heating oil, gasoline and diesel and solid waste costs, has decreased.

“We’re lower, by $400,000, than we were in 2010,” Turner said.

The public works budget is the second-largest in the city, behind police, and funds 25 employees. Its mechanics maintain and service 100 to 150 pieces of equipment each year, according to Turner.

“We do parks and rec, Police Department, public works and a little bit at the airport, too, for equipment and maintenance of vehicles,” he said.

He said his repair budget this year is about $200,000.

“That’s just public works, so I’m actually going to increase that line item, I think, by $10,000 this year,” he said, adding that the department’s repair crew is good “and they know what they’re doing.”

The proposed municipal budget for 2019-20 is $17.9 million, or a $754,345 increase over the current $17.2 million budget. The proposed school budget is $24.9 million, for a total proposed city and school budget of $42.8 million. The current budget is $41 million. The proposed budget represents a tax rate increase of $1.04 per $1,000 worth of property valuation.

Roy said recently that the proposed municipal budget increase is represented mostly in the fact that last year, the city used $800,000 from money the city got from discontinuing its contract with Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. That fund is down to $100,000, which the city will use in the proposed budget.

He said he thinks loss of revenue is as notable as general expense increases when talking about the reason for the proposed municipal budget increase.

The budget numbers are expected to change before the council takes a first vote on the proposal, probably in June.

Mayor Nick Isgro said Tuesday that the tax rate is proposed to increase by over $1 per $1,000 worth of valuation. He said he wants to have a meeting soon of the city’s finance committee and schools to discuss that.

“I think it should be under one mill, and I think the city and school should contribute to that,” he said.

In a discussion about solid waste, both Roy and Councilor Erik Thomas, D-Ward 7, said the city should discuss whether it wants to continue paying Shredding on Site or Armory Road $15,000 a year, as Winslow does. Some people and businesses take recycling there.

“It’s nice to have that alternate site for those who want to recycle and use it,” Turner said.

Isgro said many municipalities are getting out of the trash business and asked, particularly members of the city’s solid waste committee, whether they see Waterville doing the same.

Thomas said the city pays half the amount for recycling that it would if it were disposed of as trash. Roy said the city pays $35 per ton for recycling and $67 per ton for trash.

“I think it’s hard to say,” Thomas said. “You never know what’s going to happen in the future. The recycling market could rebound.”

Roy noted that the public works budget includes a $5,000 increase for tipping fees. The city’s contract with Waste Management in Norridgewock has a built-in increase, and for next year, that is 4%, which translates into roughly $5,000, according to Roy.

Turner said the city used more salt and sand this year because of the heavy winter. Asked what happens to the sand the city uses on roads that is collected this time of year, Roy said it’s called “dead sand.” New sand has sharper edges, and after it is used, the edges become rounded. Turner said the used sand has oil, litter and other debris in it and is useless, so the city gives it to people who want to use it around their homes.

“We’re able to get rid of it every year,” he said. “We deliver it to them, as long as they’re in the city borders.”

While discussing facilities maintenance, Turner noted that longtime employee Mike Folsom, the “jack of all trades,” does a super job.

“We’re very fortunate to have a guy like Mike Folsom,” he said. “He’s a good worker and he knows his stuff.”

Others, including Cindy Jacobs, president of the Waterville Public Library’s board of trustees, chimed in to agree.

“He’s very creative at fixing problems,” she said.

Councilors discussed the city’s debt service, with Roy saying city officials had considered bonding once for the city’s needs, such as public works equipment, a firefighting ladder truck and municipal pool work, but are now proposing splitting it up and bonding twice for smaller amounts in 2019 and 2021.

Isgro said Lewiston borrows yearly for roads and Council Chairman Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, said Augusta has an aggressive road plan. Thomas said it is important to improve and maintain roads, the condition of which people notice.

“It affects business,” he said. “If you can’t safely navigate the city during a snowstorm, then you’re not going out. You’re not spending money.”

Resident Sandra Sullivan expressed relief when Roy said Shores Road will be improved this year. Turner added that Marston and Industrial roads, as well as Eastern Avenue, also will be worked on this year.

“I’ve been coming to these meetings for four years. I finally heard it,” Sullivan said.

Parks and Recreation Director Matt Skehan said his department has four pickup trucks that are seven to 20 years old and the frames are “completely rusted out.” He said he doesn’t believe it makes sense to keep repairing them. Mowers, which work 40 hours a week during the warm months, also are deteriorating.

Fire Chief Shawn Esler said his station, which was built in 2003, has several sections of roof that are leaking. He worries that if the problems are not fixed soon, it will cost more to do so later. He and Roy plan to meet Wednesday to discuss the matter, he said.

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