The Weston Board of Selectmen met for a regular meeting on Thursday, Jan. 3. After a moment of silence held for former selectman John Hammerslough, who died Jan. 2, the following were among the agenda items discussed.
2011-12 year-end budget transfers
Rick Darling, the town’s director of finance, reported that “even with storm expenses” from Tropical Storm Irene and the October 2011 nor’easter, the town ended the 2011-12 fiscal year in the black.
The finance board voted in December to return more than $100,000 to the general fund, Mr. Darling said.
One reason the town was able to absorb the storm costs, he said, was the mild winter that meant snow removal costs were “light.”
Mr. Darling said he and the finance board have decided to create a special revenue fund to put storm costs into in order to “avoid the peaks and valleys” that can occur when there is an unexpected event like Storm Irene, Superstorm Sandy, or other natural disasters.
First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said she likes the idea. “It’s important for us to know what is storm-related and what’s [normal] overtime so we can figure out our budgets year to year and get a more realistic picture of what’s happening,” she said.
Mr. Darling said some of the budget highlights for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2012, include:
- Health insurance costs were “favorable,” which he predicted will carry over to the current fiscal year.
- Heating oil and gas expenses were split so there is “more clarity” on those accounts.
- The litigation account was about $104,000 over budget, driven by a few land use cases toward the end of the fiscal year.
Financially speaking, “all in all, it was an excellent year,” Mr. Darling said.
The board agreed to join a purchasing cooperative based in Texas.
“I think you have some explaining to do,” Selectman David Muller joked as Town Administrator Tom Landry was introduced to discuss the agenda item.
Mr. Landry explained that when the town lost so many trees as a result of Superstorm Sandy last October, it needed a wood chipper to help dispose of them. The town currently has two — one is about 10 years old, and the other is about 25 years old, Mr. Landry said, noting that the older chipper was due to be replaced in the next budget cycle because it is no longer adequate for the town’s needs.
After the storm, however, it was very hard to find wood chippers in the area. The town was able to find one through the Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC) interlocal purchasing cooperative.
The town used a Connecticut dealer to purchase the wood chipper from the HGAC, for $41,500; however, there is an 11.5% discount if the town is a member of the co-op.
First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said that while the state of emergency that was declared in the immediate aftermath of the storm gave her the authority to OK the purchase, she did not have the authority to enter into a cooperative purchasing agreement without the board’s consent.
There are other towns in Connecticut, including Norwalk, that use the Texas co-op, Ms. Weinstein noted.
Mr. Landry said he hopes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will eventually reimburse the town for the cost of the chipper.
The selectmen all agreed entering into the contract was a good deal, and they voted unanimously to do so.
The board interviewed several people to fill open positions on various commissions and committees. All votes were unanimous.
Bruce Lorentzen was re-appointed to a two-year term on the Commission on Aging.
Donald Gumaer was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Commission for Aging. His term will expire Dec. 31.
Alycia Angus was re-appointed to a two-year term on the Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee.
A presentation of a proposal to eliminate plastic bags in Weston was removed from the agenda because the presenters — fourth graders Julia Morledge and Colleen Moore — were not able to be at last week’s meeting. The item is expected to be put on the agenda of the next selectmen’s meeting, scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 17.