Proposed Preston town government budget up 6.28 percent

Preston – The Board of Selectmen on Monday approved a proposed 2018-19 town government budget of $3.6 million that calls for keeping two resident state troopers, adding a second weekend paid firefighter to evening shifts and hiring a construction firm to oversee remediation of the former Norwich Hospital property.

The overall budget increase is 6.28 percent, $213,577 more than the current budget of $3.4 million. But First Selectman Robert Congdon said nearly all the increase, $198,304, is for the fire department, Preston Redevelopment Agency and for the second resident state trooper. Without those three items, the increase would only have been $15,272, or 0.45 percent.

The proposed budget will be submitted to the Board of Finance Tuesday.

In a Feb. 6 referendum, town voters overwhelmingly approved hiring a second resident state trooper for the remainder of the current fiscal year. The second resident trooper starts this week in Preston. Congdon said at the time that he would use the referendum results as a way to gauge whether to include two resident troopers in next year’s budget.

The resident trooper budget would jump from $209,961 to $370,830, a $160,869 or 76.6 percent increase.

The paid staffing for the town fire department would increase by 9.69 percent, $24,035 to cover two proposed additional per diem paid firefighters for the second shifts on Friday and Saturday nights. Currently, one paid staff firefighter is on duty on the busy Friday and Saturday evening shifts.

The PRA budget would increase $13,400, or 11.27 percent to a total of $132,250. While some expenses will drop in the PRA budget, it also includes $85,000 to cover costs associated with the final cleanup of the former Norwich Hospital property.

The PRA would spend $20,000 to contract with a third-party engineering firm, CLA of Norwich, to review environmental applications for permits submitted to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the state Department of Economic and Community Development and with town planning agencies.

Another $65,000 is proposed to hire Construction Solutions Group LLC of Hartford to serve as clerk of the works to oversee cleanup work being done by Manafort Bros., the town’s remediation contractor. PRA Chairman Sean Nugent said in the past cleanup work, former PRA member Frank Ennis, who had extensive construction experience, served as clerk of the works and was on site at the construction trailer every day.

The agency no longer has the volunteer in-house experience to staff the final cleanup plan.

The PRA has funding in this year’s budget to hire CSG to oversee remediation work expected to start by the end of March or early April if permits are obtained.

c.bessette@theday.com

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