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    Tuesday, March 05, 2024

    Preston voters to decide on town official salary increases

    Preston ― Residents will be asked to vote on proposed salary increases for the first selectwoman and town clerk/tax collector, along with several spending items and whether to discontinue a portion of Fort Point Road on the former Norwich Hospital property.

    The town meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at Preston Plains Middle School, 1 Route 164.

    The Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance already have approved proposed salary increases for the two elected positions. The proposal would boost the first selectperson’s salary by $8,706, a 10% jump in the current year’s salary of $87,057.

    The increase in Town Clerk/Tax Collector Jill Keith’s salary would be $383 on top of her current salary of $64,517.

    First Selectwoman Sandra Allyn-Gauthier said the proposed increases would take effect immediately if approved Thursday. The proposals are based on results of a competitive salary study Preston commissioned this fall. The town clerk/tax collector raise would put that position in the mid-range for similar positions across the state, Allyn-Gauthier said.

    If approved by the town meeting, the new first selectperson’s salary still would fall well below the recommended minimum in the salary study. The raise would bring Preston’s position to $95,817, while the study placed the recommended minimum salary at about $122,400. Based on a 40-hour work week.

    Allyn-Gauthier, a Democrat, said town officials are aware of the continued discrepancy for the town’s top executive officer position, but decided on a 10% increase to bring the salary more in line with other towns.

    Republican Selectman Kenneth Zachem proposed the 10% increase in July, after no Republicans sought the position in the fall election. The Republican Party caucus cross-endorsed Allyn-Gauthier for re-election.

    Capital improvement proposals

    Several spending proposals are on Tuesday’s agenda on the town and school system. In each case, the town would use leftover money already bonded for past projects to purchase new equipment and make security improvements to the schools. All the proposed purchases already are in the town’s capital improvements plan, Allyn-Gauthier said, so using the existing bond money would reduce the future capital budget while not increasing the town’s debt service.

    On the town side, $377,318 from past bonds would be spent on projects such as $110,000 for fire department compressors, $72,000 for a senior center van and $55,000 for a town hall generator.

    On the school side, the proposal calls for using $643,932 in unspent bond money from past projects for items including $225,000 for a new telephone system, $120,000 for cybersecurity and technology upgrades, $150,000 for security cameras and $148,932 for an elevator for Preston Plains Middle School.

    The town meeting agenda also includes two items pertaining to the former Norwich Hospital property, including the reappointment of Preston Redevelopment Agency member Frank Ennis to a new term to expire on Oct. 26, 2028.

    The second item would discontinue a portion of Fort Point Road off Route 12 from a point just past the two cemeteries along Route 12 to a point just short of the Providence & Worcester freight rail tracks near the Thames Riverbank.

    Preston’s agreement with the hospital’s buyer, the Mohegan tribe, includes a provision to discontinue the roadway. Access to the cemeteries would not be hindered by the move, Allyn-Gauthier said.

    c.bessette@theday.com

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