In a unanimous vote, members of the Centre Region Council of Governments agreed to send the 2015 program plan to the municipalities for review and comment.
The 257-page plan is “intended to provide the General Forum with an explanation of each regional program’s history, services, current issues, midyear financial status, and proposed programmatic and financial changes for 2015.”
This is the 13th plan to be created since the program began in 2001.
“It’s a tool to give elected officials an early heads up about what we’re proposing for the new year,” said COG Executive Director Jim Steff. “So instead of giving them a budget in October and say ‘You guys need to vote on this in November,’ they get this information much earlier.”
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Each municipality schedules an examination of the plan on its agenda and submits written comments, Steff said. He then takes those comments to their respective agency directors, “and that gives us a feel about whether the want to support a project, or need more information.”
The plan covers large-scale programs within the region such as code construction and capital, planning and fire protection, but also addresses specific organizations such as the Schlow Library, Millbrook Marsh and parks and recreation.
Steff outlined the plan at Monday’s General Forum meeting, breaking the plan into separate proposals.
In personnel, proposals are made for the hiring of several new positions, including two construction plans examiners/inspectors, a deputy codes director, a library development officer and an energy conservation coordinator.
New inspectors are needed for the expected higher workload with large commercial construction projects, Steff said.
With the addition of a development officer and a proposed full-time information technology position for the Schlow library, Steff questioned if the library’s hours of operation should be reduced from 65 hours a week to 59 hours as a cost saving measure. A library representative confirmed that hours would have to be cut to avoid another weeklong closure.
In revenue, the goal of the agency directors is to keep the increase in municipal shares to 3 percent or less. Rental housing permit costs are expected to rise, however, a 20 percent discount for the cost of a building permit for a modular home is proposed.
Parks and recreation are proposed to acquire $214,750 in additional or replacement maintenance equipment. Regional parks capital fund would need to borrow $2.5 million to construct a centralized parks maintenance facility at the Whitehall Road park should that project advance. Codes would also need to purchase two Ford Escapes for the proposed new construction examiners.
The plan also prepares for overhead costs, such as the expected 10 percent health insurance premiums, the 5.5 percent increase in pension costs for defined benefits and a 1.6 percent consumer price index compensation.
So far, for the period from Jan. 1 through June 30, revenue and expenditures for the 2014 budget are consistent with predictions, according to plan documents.
According to the plan, costs relating to damage to the Oak Hall Regional Park caused by severe rainfall will be partially covered by the contingency fund for the project.
Regional Parks Construction Manager Donald Woods, who has been overseeing the Oak Hall park construction for almost three months, spoke on the condition of the park following a heavy storm that hit the region on Sunday.
Changes have been implemented in the park over the last two weeks, he said. One inch of rain was measured at the site on Sunday, but all the water was contained.
Woods confirmed that the volume of the storm that caused initial flooding on June 25 did exceed the stormwater precautions in place at the time.
He reported that vegetation is beginning to take hold on the site, and Sunday’s rain actually did some good in helping everything to grow. He also reported that biodegradable rolls have been laid out that will help the existing vegetation from washing away in future storms.