By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Westborough – The Board of Selectmen approved budgets for three of the town's departments – Police, Fire and Public Works (DPW) – at the board's Jan. 24 meeting. This was done in preparation for the Saturday, March 17, Annual Town Meeting (ATM).
Police Chief Alan Gordon told the selectmen that because three senior officers had left the department, he was able to reduce his budget. Two of those officers had retired, he said, and the third had left Westborough to join the State Police. The replacements for those officers were coming in at a lower pay rate, he said.
But, he noted, the closing of the Westborough District Court will have a negative financial impact. Once that court closes for good, officers will need to travel instead to Worcester for court appearances there.
The chief will also be requesting at the ATM $88,000 to replace two cruisers.
Fire Chief Nick Perron told the board that his requested budget is up $38,000 from last year. This is due, he said, to cost-of-living salary increases and step wages.
The department was holding off at this time, he noted, from requesting funds for major repair work needed at the Fire Station. But, he warned, roof and electrical repairs would be needed sometime in the near future.
Perron is asking for several items in the capital expenses budget this year, including $190,000 for a new ambulance and $69,500 for a Hurst Tool (Jaws of Life apparatus).
John Walden, the DPW manager, told the board that his department's budget also went up slightly due to cost-of-living wages. He is also requesting that the voters approve a measure to fund a currently vacant mechanics position. Presently, the department has one mechanic who is responsible for maintaining over 100 pieces of equipment, he said.
Selectmen Chair Lydia Goldblatt questioned why the School Department's budget went up 3.3 percent, while the other town departments went up no more than 1.5 percent.
“It's troubling,” she said. “I's like to have some grasp of why this is.”
Town Manager Jim Malloy noted that in most communities across the state, the school committee and administrators typically make presentations to the selectmen. Westborough does not; rather the School Committee holds a public hearing.
After some discussion, the board members agreed to ask, but not mandate, that the School Committee and administrators come to the Tuesday, Feb. 14, selectmen's meeting.