Thursday, January 14, 2016

Another Level Services Budget

Outgoing Interim Town Manager Dave Ziomek (standing) outgoing Finance Director Sandy Pooler (seated)

Calling it "not my budget, but our budget," Interim Town Manager Dave Ziomek presented to the Select Board and Finance Committee a status quo FY17 budget with a modest 2.7% increase over last year that maintains services, doesn't use any reserves and doesn't require a Proposition 2.5 Override.

New growth of $750,000 via Kendrick Place, Amherst Office Park and Presidential Apartments was helpful on the revenues side, as was no increase in Health insurance costs for the 5th straight year, a feat Finance Committee Chair Kay Moran dubbed "remarkable."

But alas, this budget does not increase staffing to our beleaguered Public Safety departments.  Although a police position is first in line should extra money materializes as the grant that funded the Neighborhood Liaison Officer runs out at the end of this fiscal year and may not be renewed.

Fire Department staffing will be "studied" this spring, but this being a "transitional year" Mr. Ziomek stated, "This was not a time to make substantial changes that would be felt for years to come."  In 2015 AFD had it's busiest year in history.

New Fire Station to replace Central Station "A high priority for the town."

The DPW is also level funded although they will require a whopping $3 million bond authorization to complete phase 2 of the sewer addition to Amherst Woods.

 Select Board gets a raise

The Select Board will be granted a pay raise from the current $300 up to $1,500 annually with the chair getting an addition $500.  It will be interesting to see if the Select Board votes on that before the budget goes to Town Meeting.

In closing the Interim Town Manager said he was "Inspired every day by John (Musante).  He would want good things to happen in Amherst.  With him the glass was more than half-full, it was always three-quarters full."

Select Board member Andy Steinberg thanked Ziomek, who returns to his Assistant Town Manager role at the end of the month, saying he "did an amazing job.  He stepped up when we needed him to do so, under extraordinary circumstances."


Anonymous said...

"Fire Department staffing will be "studied" this spring, but this being a "transitional year" Mr. Ziomek stated, "This was not a time to make substantial changes that would be felt for years to come." In 2015 AFD had it's busiest year in history."

It is unfortunate that our officials are still ignoring how dangerous this low staffing level is to the public. How many years of studies is this going to take? They are well aware of the facts. Are they just waiting for the newest union contract to be signed? It's terrible to put politics before our safety once again.

Larry Kelley said...

According to a 2003 Amherst Fire Department Re-Organization Study Committee:

"The New England Insurance Rating Association (a fire insurance rating bureau that sets all property insurance rates in each municipality) back in 1965 stated that Amherst should have 15 on duty based upon the hazard index, population and activity levels observed."

Today, more than 50 years later, AFD has 8 on duty.

Anonymous said...

Pay raise give me break! You are a public servant which should be a non-paying job. If you want to get payed get a job at Walmart.

Dr. Ed said...

Larry, comparing firefighting in 1965 to today is obtuse. They are better trained, equipped, and hence need fewer guys to do the same task. Turnout coats were leather, hoses were rubber-lined canvas - smaller & heavier, and trucks pumped a lot less than they do now. Ladder trucks required a 2nd guy to steer the back end, and I believe were just ladders, guys had to climb up with hoses.

Fire alarms were literally telegraphs, they were hand-wound spring-driven telegraph keys that would send out the box number in code. E.g. Box 933 would be 9 pulses, pause, 3 pulses, pause, 3 pulses. In the fire station, it would punch holes in paper tape, guys would count holes in the tape, figure out where Box 933 was, and go -- while another guy was needed to manually blow the fire horn -- 9-3-3.
And when they got to a large building, at best they knew what floor to look for fire on - fire alarms in buildings were gongs that the janitor had to rewind after fire drills.

Meanwhile, fire risk is WAY down. In 1965, people smoked EVERYWHERE, open burning of trash was legal in MA until 1969, and coal was still largely used, with hot ash issues. Electrical appliances were scary by today's standards, nothing was flame-retardant, and lots of outright explosive, let alone flammable, chemicals were in common household use. A fire at a paint store was scary as paint wasn't mostly water-based like it is now, paint cans would not only contribute to the fire when they burst & ignited, but I vaguely remember something about them becoming missiles that endangered firefighters outside the building.
I don't know when the now-banned Freon came in, but there were still a lot of Ammonia-based refrigerators, both residential & commercial -- and those were so scary that in the '70's, most FDs would gladly agree to lug one out of someone's home, lest the homeowner try to do it himself (i.e. without enough people), drop it and cause it to start leaking deadly Ammonia. (Or deadly *something* that you couldn't smell.

Smoke detectors were neither affordable nor required until about 1980, there was neither caller ID nor E-911 -- it was not uncommon for someone to call the fire department, say "my house is on fire!", and hang up without mentioning WHERE the burning house was located... All they knew was that they had a major fire *somewhere*, all they could do was sit in the truck and wait for someone else to call, maybe ask the cops & DPW to start driving around & looking -- and they'd roll heavy on *any* (and all) reports of smoke. All most large buildings had for fire alarms was an internal pull station system and a big bell on the outside -- and hopes someone would call the FD.

And I don't believe restaurants had range-hood extinguisher systems -- and Carbon Tet was still used as an extinguisher, which was a different issue...

You needed a lot more guys back then...

Something like the Rolling Green fire was

Larry Kelley said...

75% of what AFD does these days is ambulance related. And you will always need two trained bodies per ambulance.

Anonymous said...

Well, that was a lot of meaningless hot air from Mr. Ed. Thanks for showing us you have no clue what is needed NOW.

Dr. Ed said...

"75% of what AFD does these days is ambulance related.'

Which is why what a FIRE insurance rating bureau said a half century ago is irrelevant.

"And you will always need two trained bodies per ambulance."

To drive drunks across the bridge?

The model in most of Massachusetts is that the highly trained, highly skilled, (and highly paid) Firefighters stabilize the patient, and then the less skilled (and much less expensive) staff of a private ambulance company provide the taxi service. And when it is "scoop & run" due to the severity of the injuries, assuming you can't get a Lifeflight in, the Firemen go too.

Larry, driving an ambulance in a stressful situation -- and not doing something stupid -- is probably above the ability of an ARHS grad. But you don't have to know all the stuff the advance AFD guys have to know -- nor is there a need to pay drivers what those AFD guys are worth.

Larry Kelley said...

The point is 50 years ago all they did was firefighting and the Insurance folks found them grossly understaffed.

Anonymous said...

You really Are an idiot,

Anonymous said...

If you say the AFD services are needed for the schools- An increase would be approved with no questions asked!