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There is the second half of annual town meeting (money items) and a special town meeting. Annual town meeting items deal with items for the next fiscal year. The special town meeting deals with times for the current fiscal year.

ONE THING ABOUT TOWN MEETING (TM) that people may not understand: no money gets spent without town meeting appropriating the money. The select board or school committee can’t spent money that town meeting hasn’t appropriated first. That doesn’t mean that TM can make or micromanage town budgets, but it can vote them up or down or amend them. Even if no tax dollars are involved, TM has to authorize spending.

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ARTICLE 17. To see if the Town will vote to transfer from available funds the sum of $281,047, or a greater or lesser amount, authorized under Chapter 291 of the Acts of 2004 for highway construction and improvements defined under Chapter 90 of the General Laws, or take any other action in regard thereto.

THESE FUNDS come from the state to pay for road construction. The money can only be spent on road construction.

ARTICLE 18. To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate, transfer from available funds, transfer from the stabilization fund, borrow or bond $39,701, or a greater or lesser amount, for the purpose of purchasing a marked cruiser for the Police Department, or take any other action in regard thereto.

OUR POLICE DEPARTMENT FLEET replaces one vehicle every year. Off-hand, I can’t remember how many cars we have, but one needs replacement every year. One year we didn’t replace a police car, we ended up buying 2 cars the following year. Police cars are driven almost 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They need to be reliable. Unless the town has a better use, the retired police cars are traded in or sold as surplus property.

ARTICLE 19. To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate, transfer from available funds, transfer from the stabilization fund, borrow or bond $50,000, or a greater or lesser amount, for the purpose of purchasing engineering services for an engineering study of the West Street School building, or take any other action in regard thereto.

IT MAY NOT TAKE $50,000 to figure out what we can do with West Street School. If we can’t use it, sell it, or lease it, we will have to demolish it or let it sit empty as an eyesore and liability. We have some existing studies, but they aren’t thorough enough to determine West Street’s future use. There’s not a rush on this. We’re just trying to be proactive.

ARTICLE 20. To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $368,548, or a greater or lesser amount, as its apportioned share of the fiscal year 2017 budget for the Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School District, or take any other action in regard thereto.

PATHFINDER IS THE VOCATIONAL option for Granby students. Granby is legally required to provide some sort of vocational option. We also belong to the Pathfinder District. This means we have elected representation on its school board. We actually send a lot of kids–between 20 and 30–there. Tuition is based on the percentage of Granby students at Pathfinder.

ARTICLE 21. To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate or transfer from available funds $379,919, or a greater or lesser amount, to operate the municipal solid waste department, or take any other action in regard thereto.

THE MONEY FOR ARTICLE 21 IS NON-TRANSFERABLE. It is earmarked for our municipal trash program by an override. Once put into this account, money can only be spent on trash-related expenses.

 

ARTICLE 22. To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate or transfer from available funds $188,677, or a greater or lesser amount, to operate the sewer department, or take any other action in regard thereto.

THIS IS NOT a tax-related item. It authorizes the sewer commission (the select board) to spend the fees collected by sewer users and the community septic system in the Smith Ave. neighborhood. If you aren’t on one of these systems, chances are you don’t know about them because you don’t pay anything for them.

ARTICLE 23. To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate or transfer from available funds $512,074, or a greater or lesser amount, to operate the ambulance department, or take any other action in regard thereto.

THE AMBULANCE DEPARTMENT is not self-sufficient. Insurance reimbursements are often capped and may not cover all costs, which then fall on the patient who doesn’t always have the money. We do send some users to collection when they don’t pay. 

ARTICLE 24. To see if the Town will vote to raise, appropriate, or transfer from available funds such sums of money as may be necessary to defray the expense of the Town including debt and interest for the ensuing year and to carry out any vote passed under this article.

This article authorizes the Town to collect taxes and pay our debts.

ARTICLE 25. To see if the Town will vote to transfer from the Capital Equipment Needs Stabilization Fund $217,200, or a greater or lesser amount, for the purpose of reducing the funding from tax levy for the fiscal year 2017 appropriations, or take any other action in regard thereto.

This article pays the debt on capital items from previous years. Instead of purchasing these items outright, the Town financed them at low rates. This article is separate from Article 24 because it takes money out of stabilization. 

ARTICLE 26. To see if the Town will vote to assess the amounts raised and appropriated under these articles and warrants on the estates and personal property of the Town of Granby.

THIS ARTICLE ALLOWS THE ASSESSORS TO assess property and the tax collector to collect taxes.

West Street-Granby_PSR_small (1)

Click here for Aldrich Hall Final Report

Until last year, the Historical District Commission (HDC) was an uncontroversial board that rarely met. When it did meet, it was usually to approve the color of paint on a house in the district. It’s safe to say that the HDC and at least some of its former and present members are no longer uncontroversial.

The controversy began when the select board attempted to seek from the Historical District Commission the necessary certificate to demolish Aldrich Hall. Town meeting had appropriated $50,000 to demolish Aldrich Hall in March, 2013, and Selectman Lou Barry applied for a certificate of appropriateness to have the building demolished. Our first application was not addressed within in the required period of time, and a certificate of hardship should have been issued. (A former HDC member now says it was never received. The law says differently, but we’ve been trying to avoid a costly court case). Nonetheless, we tried to work with the HDC, though we balked at hiring a structural engineer to review the building as too expensive and unnecssary. Moreover, neither the bylaws or state laws allow an HDC to make up its own requirements. Our building inspector Don Demers declared the building unfit. His successor Russ Ducharme finally suggested a survey board as per MGL Chapter143 Section 8. On 17 November 2014, the Select Board then commissioned a Survey Board to review and report on building code related items for Aldrich Hall. The purpose of rendering unbiased technical and regulatory opinions on selected Town properties. Their report can be hard to read–there’s lots of technical language and references to the building code–but the conclusions can be easily understood with a modicum of common sense: Aldrich Hall is not worth bringing up to code.

To bring the building up to code, the building would need to be stripped to its wood frame skeleton. That’s it. Roof, shingles, floors would all need to be removed. Why? Because of building codes. Even historical buildings have to meet building codes if they are going to be used. If they are going to be used for meetings, they have to meet a certain code. If they are going to be used for offices, they have to meet a certain code. A few years ago, we vacated the building because it was structurally unsound and quite probably unhealthy. The building was never meant to be used as town offices. In our typically frugal fashion, Granby used it for a senior center and then for town offices. We probably should not have done so. The well water was undrinkable because it failed the monthly, mandatory state tests for water quality. There were frequent problems with vermin because much of the foundation was made of piled up rocks. The foundation also caused moisture problems and caused mold. The first floor was supported by several floor jacks because the beams in the cellar were not meant to support the loads of modern working offices.

I don’t know what the cost of a new house is these days, but I don’t think $150 per square foot is exorbitant. The survey board estimated the cost of renovating Aldrich Hall to be $ 150 to $200/sqft. Multiplied by the building’s 3,000 square feet, the base cost of renovations is $450,000 to $600,000. It is expected that water supply permitting and construction, and a DEP compliant on-site sewage disposal system would add another $100,000 to the project. Architectural and engineering design fees add another 7% to 14% Altogether, expect total project costs top range from $590,000 to $800,000.  Not priced into these costs is hazardous materials mitigation and whatever exigencies turn up in the deconstruction and reconstruction. Even rehabbed, the building would serve little purpose  for the town. A footprint of 1500 square feet doesn’t serve many municipal purposes when you subtract footage for bathrooms, hallways, and closets. Double that footprint for a second floor, and there’s still not much you can do.

The local media have picked up on the Aldrich Hall controversy. That’s why I’m writing this post. The Springfield Republican has had some stories, and the Daily Hampshire Gazette is working on a story for later this week. Last week, The Belchertown Sentinel had an uncharacteristically strong editorial condemning the HDC’s interference with the construction of the planned Veteran’s Memorial. This controversy is bound to linger for a while, so I’d thought I update what’s happening. I’ve left out some of the side-controversies, but there’s not enough time to cover all of those. Even in a town like Granby.

ARTICLE 3. To see if the Town will vote to authorize and appropriate, borrow or transfer from available funds the sum of $50,000, or a greater or lesser amount, for the purpose of demolishing Aldrich Hall and garage, or take any other action in regards thereto.

ARTICLE 33.

I MOVE the Town vote to transfer from the Capital Equipment Needs Stabilization Fund $252,000 for the purpose of reducing the funding from tax levy for the fiscal year 2016 appropriations.

This balances the Town budget using $252,000 from stabilization. NOTE: this money was free cash previously put into stabilization.

ARTICLE 34.

I MOVE the Town vote to assess the amounts raised and appropriated under these articles and warrants on the estates and personal property of the Town of Granby.

This article authorizes the assessors to assess property and the tax collector to collect property taxes.

ARTICLE 33.

I MOVE the Town vote to transfer from the Capital Equipment Needs Stabilization Fund $252,000 for the purpose of reducing the funding from tax levy for the fiscal year 2016 appropriations.

This balances the Town budget using $252,000 from stabilization. NOTE: this money was free cash previously put into stabilization.

ARTICLE 34.

I MOVE the Town vote to assess the amounts raised and appropriated under these articles and warrants on the estates and personal property of the Town of Granby.

This article authorizes the assessors to assess property and the tax collector to collect property taxes.

An enterprise fund is a separate accounting and financial reporting mechanism for municipal services. Enterprise funds can be used for public utilities (solid waste, sewer), health care (ambulance), recreation, and transportation. Revenues and expenses are segregated into a fund, and financial statements are separate from all other governmental activities. Enterprise funds keep all expenses and revenue separate from the general fund. It’s also easier and clearer to account for receipts and expenses in an enterprise fund. It would also be illegal for the Town to take money from the sewer enterprise fund to pay for an unrelated cost, such as a police cruiser.

ARTICLE 29.

I MOVE the Town vote to raise and appropriate or transfer from available funds $376,937, or a greater or lesser amount, to operate the municipal solid waste department.

Wages                      $ 7,700
Expenses                 $ 365,237

   Capital                     $ 4,000
$376,937

and that $13,896 be raised from municipal solid waste receipts and $363,041 be raised from Tax Levy.

Enterprise Fund. Wages and capital cover any costs associated with collecting yard waste or other solid waste not accommodated by curbside pickup. The bulk of the money reflects the override for curbside pickup. This money is accounted for in an enterprise fund, dedicated solely to solid waste disposal.

ARTICLE 30.

I MOVE the Town vote to raise and appropriate or transfer from available funds $193,564, or a greater or lesser amount, to operate the sewer department.

Wages                      $ 17,160
  Expenses                 $  117,072
Debt                          $   59,332

$193,564

and that $193,564 be raised from sewer receipts.

Enterprise Fund. department accounts for the sewer in the 5 Corners area and the community septic system in the Smith Avenue area. Although both are included in this motion, these two areas are accounted for separately and pay their own costs. Wages cover testing and service. The sewer, for example, requires daily testing that costs about $50 a day. Expenses cover sewage and everything else customers are billed for. Debt is debt service on the original projects.

ARTICLE 31.

I MOVE the Town vote to raise and appropriate or transfer from available funds $432,695, or a greater or lesser amount, to operate the ambulance department.

Wages                      $375,395

Expenses                     51,000
Capital                          6,300

$432,695

and that $256,465 be raised from ambulance receipts and $176,230 be raised from Tax Levy.

Enterprise Fund. Note that $256,465 is raised from payments from ambulance users. Wages are the big cost here. We are using $176,230 from taxes, which shows that the Town subsidizes ambulance service. 

Articles 13-28

These are the motions that will be read at Town Meeting. A short explanation follows. In some cases, I need more information. Feel free to ask questions. I’ll do my best to fill in the gaps.

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ARTICLE 13.

I MOVE the Town vote to transfer from available funds the sum of $421,690 authorized under Chapter 291 of the Acts of 2004 for highway construction and improvements defined under Chapter 90 of the General Laws.

Housekeeping Article. Chapter 90 funds are granted to cities and towns based on a formula. Town meeting must authorize the expenditure of them so we can use them on our roads.

 ARTICLE 14.

I MOVE the Town vote to appropriate as offset receipts fire permit fees in the amount of $1,420 for Forest Fire Warden Expense.

Housekeeping Article. These fees come from burning permits. They are spent on forest fire expenses. Town meeting must authorize the expenditure of this money.

 ARTICLE 15.

I MOVE the Town vote to appropriate as offset receipts subscriber fees in the amount of $936.50 for Cable TV Advisory Committee expenses.

Housekeeping Article. Every cable customer pays a 50 cent franchise fee every year. This money is put into escrow to offset negotiations for the next cable contract.

 ARTICLE 16.

I MOVE the Town vote to raise and appropriate $40,000 for the purpose of renovating the Jr.-Sr. High School bathrooms.

Capital expense.

ARTICLE 17.

I MOVE the Town vote to raise and appropriate $10,000 for the purpose of funding any and all costs associated with the foreclosure or collection of taxes owed on property placed in tax title in accordance with M.G.L. Ch. 60.

Operating cost. There are legal costs associated with collecting taxes on properties placed in tax title or in foreclosure.

 ARTICLE 18.

I MOVE the Town vote to raise and appropriate $36,500 for the purpose of purchasing a marked cruiser for the Police Department.

Capital/Operating cost. We replace one police cruiser from our fleet every year. Doing so has proven less expensive than repairing. The old cruiser is either used for non-patrolling functions or other town departments. If there are no better uses, the cruiser is sold.  Police cruisers are driven more than 20 hours a day every day of the year. Once they reach a certain number of hours, they cost more money to repair than they do to replace.

 ARTICLE 19.

I MOVE the Town vote to borrow in accordance M.G.L. Chapter 44, Section 7, Clause 9 $49,000 for the purpose of purchasing a Compressed Air Foam System (CAFS), related equipment, foam and training for the Fire Department.

Capital cost. Compressed air foam is more efficient than water. It will be carried in our tanker truck.

 ARTICLE 20.

I MOVE the Town vote to raise and appropriate $15,000 for the purpose of purchasing road signs for the Highway Department.

Capital cost/legal requirement. There are new regulations for street signs. The new signs are more reflective and easier to read at night. We have been replacing them over the course of a few years.

 ARTICLE 21.

I MOVE the Town vote to borrow in accordance M.G.L. Chapter 44, Section 7, Clause 9 $42,000 for the purpose of purchasing a pickup truck for the Highway Department.

Capital cost. This motion replaces an existing pickup truck. Our trucks typically take a beating with snowplowing and other work they do.

 ARTICLE 22.

I MOVE the Town vote to borrow in accordance M.G.L. Chapter 44, Section 7, Clause 9 $30,000 for the purpose of purchasing a vehicle for the Council On Aging Department.

Capital cost. Our vehicle for the Council on Aging serves many purposes, all of which involve transporting senior citizens. This article would purchase a new one.

 ARTICLE 23.

I MOVE the Town vote to transfer from Free Cash $30,000 for the purpose of purchasing pagers and portable radios for the Police and Fire Departments.

 Capital. Our radios are old and out-of-date. They need replacement.

 ARTICLE 24.

I MOVE the Town vote to transfer $1,294 from article 61-225-5801-ART ATM #40 06/19/06 Ambulance and borrow $260,000 in accordance M.G.L. Chapter 44, Section 7, Clause 9 for a total of $261,294 for the purpose of purchasing an ambulance and related equipment for the Ambulance Department.

Capital expense. We need a new ambulance.

 ARTICLE 25.

 I MOVE the Town vote to transfer from Free Cash $300,000 for the purpose of funding the General Purpose Stabilization Fund.

 Savings. Free cash starts out as unspent money. It is the difference between the amount of money estimated in the previous year’s budget and the amount of money that is unspent. Unspent money can come from free cash carried over from the previous year, line-items that have unspent money, and in Granby’s case, landfill revenue. In order to be used or put into stabilization, unspent monies must first be certified as free cash by the state.

 ARTICLE 26.

 I MOVE the Town vote to transfer from Free Cash $300,000 for the purpose of funding the Capital Equipment Needs Stabilization Fund.

Savings. For clarity’s sake, we have three stabilization funds. We could have one stabilization fund, but by having three with different focuses, townspeople can more clearly see where we are using money.

 ARTICLE 27.

 I MOVE the Town vote to transfer from Free Cash $300,000 for the purpose of funding the Municipal Buildings Construction/Renovation Stabilization Fund.

 Savings. Stabilization funds can only be used with a 2/3 majority vote at town meeting. Deposits, withdrawals, and transfers require 2/3 of town meeting voters to support the action.

 ARTICLE 28.

I MOVE the Town vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $285,278 as its apportioned share of the fiscal year 2016 budget for the Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School District.

Operating. Granby belongs to Pathfinder and pays a fee for the percentage of Granby students attending the school. Few school districts can afford a vocational education department, and Pathfinder offers Granby an affordable vocational alternative.