Hoosac Water Quality Eyeing Capital ImprovementsBy Andy McKeever
06:29AM / Saturday, March 10, 2012
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Hoosac Water Quality District is requesting an additional $300,000 worth of capital improvements in its proposed $2 million fiscal 2013 budget.
The district is looking to increase its capital expenditures from $501,831 to $817,253 to start upgrading the compost plant, which was not completed in a 2008 renovation, and repairs on Kateley Lane.
"Each year, we fund the next most important project and tackle it," district Chairwoman Elaine Neely said on Thursday as she presented the budget to the Finance Committee. "The real impact of this budget is on the capital side."
Neely said she had spoken with North Adams officials and the city administration is supportive of the budget.
About $21,000 bond from a previous capital project is falling off the budget and a little more than $300,000 is being added. District officials said a few projects need to be tackled in the next few years. Three projects now have increased in immediacy because of Hurricane Irene.
The compost buildings were not included in a $2.1 million upgrade in 2008 but when completed, could be an additional source of revenue. According to plant manager Brad Furlon, the district has been asked by multiple towns to compost their waste but the district has to refuse. This year, the district is asking for about $170,000 to upgrade the plant to be able to compost for other towns.
"We have the room and the capabilities to compost other towns but we can't do it with the current buildings," Furlon said. "Until we upgrade the facility, we can't look at it."
The capital improvements are split between North Adams and Williamstown. For capital cost, Williamstown would foot a bill of $364,805 and North Adams, $452,449. That capital is added to the proposed $1.1 million operating budget — putting the total costs at $780,362 for Williamstown and $1,183,889 for North Adams. The percentage each town pays is determined by usage.
The operation budget is increasing by $28,409. The largest increase to the budget is in wages by about $20,000. With a change in health-care plans, the employees' premiums are increasing. So, the wages are increasing by 5 percent to not only give the employees a 2 percent raise but also to help cover those additional out-of-pocket costs, Neely said. Health and dental insurance costs to the district are dropping by about $40,000.
"Our co-pays are going up dramatically," Neely said. "We're trying to make it so they actually get a raise this year."
The raises drew questions from the Finance Committee but Neely said it was important toward employee retention.
Also contributing to the budget increase is $15,000 for plant maintenance and $8,000 increase in electricity costs. An additional $10,000 is being requested for unemployment insurance.
Furlon said the district pays unemployment insurance on a per diem basis and this year, an employee had retired and taken another job. When he left that job, he filed an unemployment claim against the district, which is legal.