WALDO ― Select Board members continued budget discussions Monday, Jan. 31, taking a second look at Fire Chief Brian Walker’s proposed numbers and hearing Road Commissioner Alvin Winslow’s thoughts about what needs to be done this year on town roads.

At their last meeting Jan. 24, Walker, elected chief last March, told of building up the Waldo Volunteer Fire Department from three members to 15 by the end of the year and now needing to address compensation and equipment issues. Walker turned back his $2,000 stipend for 2021, but paid $300 each to his two original volunteers for meeting certain agreed-upon criteria.

He would like to pay all volunteer firefighters $20 per hour, up to $600 each, for their service in the new fiscal year, which began Feb. 1. His budget request for compensation in Fiscal Year 2022 totals $9,000.

For equipment and operations, the chief has made an initial request for $18,000, which includes expenditures for required firefighting apparatus and maintenance, building maintenance and equipment upgrades to improve operational effectiveness and safety. Most of this, he believes, would be a wash if the town were to implement a cost-recovery program.

Walker has written an ordinance that he based on similar ordinances in other towns, which essentially calls for billing homeowners and drivers for Fire Department costs in responding to their fires and crashes. The costs are paid by homeowners’ and auto insurance.

Last year the town budgeted a total of $11,000 for the Fire Department. Outside the meeting, Walker opined that “The department has been underfunded for years.”

After going through Walker’s latest numbers at the Jan. 31 session, First Selectman Kathy Littlefield initially said, “The town can’t afford it.” But after considering other possible funding sources, the three board members agreed they could allocate some monies from the town’s federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, most of which are earmarked for bringing high-speed internet service to the town.

Littlefield said she would follow up with attorney Bill Kelley, who she said is reviewing the draft cost-recovery ordinance, and would also determine whether the Select Board could pass such an ordinance, or whether it would require a vote at town meeting, which is coming up toward the end of March.

She asked Walker to consider what budget items he might be able to reduce or do without.

At the Select Board’s request, Winslow ran through what he saw as the most critical needs for road maintenance in the town. Recalling serious dirt road problems during mud season in 2021, particularly with Bonne Terre Road, Littlefield stated firmly, with a smile, “We’re going to have a good spring … a nice, early, dry spring!” The town spent $83,000 on road repairs and maintenance through a very wet spring last year.

Winslow said ditching needs to be done on portions of Savage, Birches, Gurney Hill, Kendall Corner, East Waldo and Old County roads. Culverts need to be replaced as well on several of those roads. Hot-topping is needed on Birches, Kendall Corner and Pond roads, and on the paved portion of East Waldo Road.

He added he “could go on for hours on ditching, because we need it on all the roads.” A principal function of roadside ditches is to collect and carry surface water away from the road; over time, ditches fill in and must be restored.

Winslow also noted that rapidly rising costs of motor fuel and asphalt make it difficult to get bids now from contractors for work to be done next summer.

Littlefield asked him to come back with estimates on the most critical ditching, culvert and grading projects.

The Waldo Select Board meets Mondays at 5 p.m. at the Town Office.

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