Board of Selectmen focused on budget


KENT - In a meeting that covered a broad range of topics, the word of the night was indisputably "budget" as the Board of Selectmen focused its attention on unraveling which spending requests are feasible and which are not.

At this point, the municipal budget looks like it is 9 percent higher than the budget for the current fiscal year (which will end on June 30, 2008).

The selectmen motioned to send the amended requests to the capital plan to the Board of Finance but not before they did some serious number punching, resulting in the finding that this year's capital plan has increased 9 percent from last year.

It currently stands at $1,263,360 and has yet to factor in the Board of Education's requests, which are forthcoming, and bonding costs for the new firehouse.

Tennis courts

First up was a request from Park and Recreation for $50,000 to be used to repair the fence and tennis courts at Kent Commons Park.

Selectman Bruce Adams, a former member of the Park and Recreation Commission, agreed that the courts are in need of repair; which prompted Assistant Town Clerk Linda Hall to inquire if anybody had been monitoring and maintaining the courts. If not, then what would prevent them from falling into disrepair in the future?

Adams conceded that the courts had become "a gathering spot for inappropriate activities on and off the court."

However, he pointed out that an instructional tennis program set up by Park and Recreation has become very popular and would be a compelling reason to renovate the courts so that they are safe for use.

This generated some discussion about increasing police presence at the park after dark or possibly asking a member of Park and Rec to check up on the park to ensure that no further damage would be done.

The board agreed to leave the request in the current draft of the capital plan. But a request for $25,000 for a pavilion at Emory Park was declined, and a $50,000 request to pave the parking area at Kent Commons was pushed one year forward and out of the five-year capital plan (the work will likely be done six years from now).

The board also approved a $150,000 request to fix the floor of the town pool.

Fire trucks

Fire Chief Eric Epstein submitted the Volunteer Fire Department's budget requests.

The department would like to buy a quint, a fire truck that can be used both as an engine and as a ladder truck. The cost this year is expected to be $850,000. That's an increase of $150,000 from last year, when the request for this truck was $700,000.

The quint, Epstein explained, would allow the department to respond more quickly to calls. Right now, Kent has no ladder truck of its own, but has a mutual aid agreement with several other towns that do. Response times from these other towns can be lengthy, because of the distances the companies have to travel.

Epstein pointed out the height of buildings at the private schools in town and observed that using ground ladders in these situations simply would not be effective and would require assistance from outside the community.

While noting that he understood the need for this vehicle, Selectman Vince LaFontan inquired about possible alternate methods for acquiring one - including asking the private schools for financial assistance; fundraising; or looking for a used vehicle that would not cost quite as much.

Epstein responded that the department had not discussed the quint with the private schools nor had any fundraising been done. Searching for a used quint would require the formation of a committee that would need town approval to be set up.

In the end, the board decided to push back this request to the 2013/2014 fiscal year.

Tractors and sheds

Road Foreman Rick Osborne submitted requests from the highway department, including one for $40,000 to purchase a multi-purpose tractor that could be used on the newly renovated fields at Kent Center School.

The new mower would effectively cut the time needed to mow the fields from 10 hours to three, Osborne said. That which would eliminate the town's need to contract the mowing of the fields to an outside entity, and would ease the strain on the maintenance crew at Kent Center School and the town if the work not be contracted at all.

The tractor could also be used to plow sidewalks in the winter and mow other locations in town.

Osborne also asked that $700,000 be earmarked for repairs to Bull's Bridge Road and Fuller Road.

After some discussion and a lot of number crunching, it was agreed that this request would be split into two separate $350,000 requests. The first would be added to the fifth year of the current five-year spending plan; the other was placed in the sixth year.

Osborne was commended by the board for the way he has managed the costs for his department's many ongoing projects. The board noted in particular the recently completed salt shed, which came in $65,000 under budget due to a decrease in the size of the shed.

Osborne asked that the money saved on the shed be used to replace the antiquated generator in use at the town garage, and to help build the required equipment shed that would be housed at the site of the forthcoming Verizon cell phone tower.

This shed, Osborne said, would need to be climate controlled and would serve as a storage area for town communication equipment.

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