Gray’s council gears up for 2019

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GRAY — The Town Council has begun tackling its 2019 task list, which includes 31 items, as well as the budget implications of those items.

Among the items on the council’s list is a public facilities study and possible funding for upgrades to the buildings, buying more electronic speed signs and the town’s Capital Improvement Plan payment.

The town has budgeted $23,000 for the public facilities study.

“We have a rough draft of a public facilities study that we adapted from the town of Windham to try to come up with” a request for proposals, Town Manager Deborah Cabana said at a Dec. 18 council meeting. She said the town could break the study down into different parts, but “if we hope to do a full study for the whole town, we’re quite short in funds for that.”

Community Development Director Doug Webster recommended the council focus on “what is going to be needed over the next 10 years.”

“My understanding is that the facilities study is not going to get into the nitty gritty details of the condition of the building but more to identify what’s needed as from a functional perspective,” he continued. “If we can’t do both, maybe we can do one to help bring the council to an informed budgetary decision.”

The council also discussed purchasing more electronic speed signs. The town owns one, but Council Vice Chairwoman Sandra Carder raised the possibility of purchasing an additional sign that lights up and flashes if cars go above the speed limit.

“We get chronic complains on specific roads,” Carder said and expressed her concern about speeding, especially near schools.

Director of Public Works Steve LaVallee said he would research the price for such signs.

The council prioritized its payment for the Capital Improvement Plan, a short-range plan for capital projects that provides options for financing the plan. Gray’s CIP is part of the town’s 2018 bond package, which will allow the council to make payments to its CIP fund over a five-year period. According to the budget task sheet, the $500,000 taken from the rainy day fund needs to be paid back first.

“I think we’re all in agreement that needs to be done this year,” Carder said.

Another topic of discussion was the employee vacation/sick fund. According to the task list, “this is an underfunded liability and comes into play when an employee retires or leaves and requires a payout of accumulated vacation/sick time.”

Cabana said that last fiscal year, the town paid out $18,000 to retiring employees. The estimated cost in the budget task sheet is $245,419. Cabana said she will continue to work on the issue, adding “We have some employees that have a lot of sick time on the books as well as vacation.”

Other items on the task list included creating plans for watersheds that need surveys or protection plans, converting street lights to LED fixtures and conducting a feasibility study and geological study to determine if a solar array could be erected on a landfill in town.

In June, voters in Gray approved a $7.2 million operations budget for the coming fiscal year and an additional $4.9 million in bonds for various projects.

Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at jvaughan@keepmecurrent.com.