WESTFIELD - Village expenses, large and small, were the focus of the December Westfield Village Board meeting and the executive session that followed.
Early in the evening, the board showed a reluctance to pay an additional $300 for the Recreation Department's roller skating program, since the requested expenditure had not been included in the initial budget. The village has purchased a computer for the program and has paid for downloaded music and the labor for setting it up. The board felt that the additional request for a stipend for an announcer for the program was unwarranted.
The board again tabled a request for a water line extension to a property that is not now served by the village. The property owner could be required to pay for the water line, but there was concern about costs to the village for an engineer to plan the project. More information is needed about the cost of an engineer and the likelihood of a grant for any part of the project before a decision can be made.
On a positive note for the village budget, the board voted to continue its current contract with Southern Tier Brewery. The waste from the brewing process is trucked in and handled in the village water treatment facility, providing annual net revenue to the village of about $30,000 per year. This income stream will not last the entire year, as the brewery is currently building its own treatment plant, but the arrangement will continue until that plant is up and running.
A spokesman for the Electric Department noted that the department is completing the retrofitting of the lights on Main and Portage streets. Existing fixtures are being replaced with LED lights, which not only use around half of the electricity of the old fixtures, but also emit far less carbon dioxide.
As a result of the meeting of the special committee formed from members of the fire department, board of fire commissioners, village and town officials, and general citizens to work with a consultant on fire department concerns, the village has decided to set a meeting with members of the fire department and the board of fire commissioners to discuss and possibly reconsider the relationship between the BOFC and the department. The date for this meeting has not been finally determined.
An executive session was held following the meeting to discuss the extension of the union contract with village employees, as well as to discuss training for a member of the police department. No action on these items was taken, as the board needs more information on both issues. On Dec. 11, the board and the union membership were ready to approve an extension of the old employee contract, which has expired. But, on that date, the board learned that the health plan currently offered under the contract will not be available in the future.
According to Vince Luce, village clerk, a health plan comparable to that currently offered to village employees would cost 30 percent more next year, or approximately $150,000, at a minimum. This would pose a problem for the village, since the property tax cap limits any increase in the budget, and the fund balance, while now within acceptable limits, is not sufficient to draw upon for an annual expense that cannot be expected to decrease in the future. The village has estimated that the largest additional amount available for this expense would be far less than the $150,000 required to meet the increased cost. Until specifics are available from plan administrators, no action will be taken.
The village has invited the business manager of IBEW 459, the village employees' union, to meet with the board and plan administrators in the near future, in an attempt to reach a solution.