Chilmark selectmen begin work on Fy2012 budget


Chilmark selectmen on Tuesday inked a deal with a marine contractor to rebuild the new wooden pier connector to the West Dock in Menemsha, reviewed several department budgets for next year, and discussed plans to add four new people to the Tri-Town Ambulance Service.

Chairman Warren Doty said the town received a signed contract from the Danvers-based company C. White Marine Inc. earlier in the day. The contractor will complete all work in the water by April 1 and complete the new car-way and pedestrian walkway by May 15.

Selectmen then turned their attention to the fiscal year 2012 budget, reviewing an outline of some of the proposed changes put together by executive secretary Tim Carroll. Some of the departments would see only a modest increase in spending next year, Mr. Carroll explained.

The Up-Island Regional School District Assessment, for example, is slated to increase .37 percent, from $2,383,601 to $2,392,244; while the beach committee budget is expected to drop around 4 percent from $241,094 down to $231,209.

But other budgets will see a more substantial increase; such as the library department, which will increase 6.57 percent from $267,636 to $285,219; primarily because of a plan to open the library an extra hour on Thursday afternoons.

The police department budget is expected to increase 6.4 per cent, from $524,699 to $558,294, largely due to cost of living adjustments and step increases for employees.

The line item that generated the most discussion was the Tri-Town Ambulance Service, which is expected to increase 60.8 percent, from $452,995 last year to $728,415 next year, because of a plan to add four new salaried positions.

Currently many of the ambulance night shifts are staffed by volunteer paramedics, who receive a payment for each shift they work. But under the new plan being proposed by the ambulance service, a regular paramedic will cover specific shifts, guaranteeing someone is on at all times.

According to the outline, the four new positions would cost $148,864 in salaries; two would be 40 hours a week and two would be 30 hours a week. Health insurance for the new staff would cost $67,907, while coverage time-off for the new positions would cost $28,000.

Police Chief Brian Cioffi and selectman Jonathan Mayhew are the town representatives for Tri-Town Ambulance Service. Chief Cioffi said the state is requiring the town to have paramedics on duty around the clock.

“We are going with the minimum of what the state is requiring,” the chief said. “It’s what we are being told we have to provide.”

Mr. Doty said he was concerned with such a sharp increase in spending.

“To go from a $400,000 to a $700,000 operation [in one year] is the kind of thing that makes anybody looking at a budget sit up straight and say ‘whoa, what happened there?'” he said.

Chief Cioffi said the addition of the staff is part of a larger transition from a volunteer to professional ambulance service.

“What we provide as a service has evolved. There are more people in town, and the higher standards we set means we eventually have to increase our staffing to maintain our 24/7 coverage,” he said.

“We all knew it was coming. But it’s just staggering when it starts to hit,” replied selectman Frank Fenner.

Selectmen tabled the discussion on the changes to the Tri-Town Ambulance Service, and the fiscal year 2012 budget, until a future date. The various department budgets will be discussed during a series of workshops over the next few weeks.