Preston — Purchasing equipment and vehicles, upgrading city and community park buildings and funding a full-time firefighter are among budget items in the $1.1 million U.S. federal bailout dollars proposed by the city.
The Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen last week approved the proposed budget of $1,115,646, leaving $151,545 to fund future items. The plan is expected to be posted on the city’s website, http://www.preston-ct.org, on Monday.
The Board of Selectmen will accept public comments on the plan at its 7 p.m. meeting Thursday at City Hall, and the plan will be voted on by residents at a June 30 town meeting at the Middle School in Preston Plains.
An ordinance approved at the June 9 town budget meeting requires any ARP expense item over $50,000 to obtain town meeting approval.
The budget contains several items above this level, including $160,000 needed to complete the purchase of a pumper fire truck, $210,000 for a large snow plow truck, $84,000 for a smaller plow truck -snow and $190,000 to improve security and accessibility at City Hall. Part of the City Hall work would replace a sidewalk that leads to the back door of the upper level. First coach Sandra Allyn-Gauthier said the sidewalk would improve safety exit and allow one-way flow in the hallway if COVID-19 or other health restrictions were needed again.
The only staffing item is the request to hire an additional full-time firefighter to cover shifts where volunteer support has been lacking. City officials have deferred including the cost in the city’s operating budget, but are considering the item in the HRA’s spending plan. The city now has a full-time captain and hires daily firefighters to cover three shifts a day, seven days a week.
Allyn-Gauthier proposed to fund the full $86,300 cost of the position in the 2022-23 ARP budget, then reduce the ARP contribution to $64,725 and $32,363 in the third year, allowing the city to gradually fund the position through the operating budget.
Allyn-Gauthier’s goals of conducting a human resources study of the city’s paid staff and conducting a long-term strategic plan for the city are also included in the ARP’s spending plan, although the strategic plan is not yet budgeted for a specific amount. The human resources study is expected to cost $15,000.
Allyn-Gauthier said she was seeking potential costs and resources through the Connecticut Council of Municipalities for assistance with both studies.
In addition to city projects and equipment purchases, Preston has received requests from regional non-profit agencies for possible contributions using ARP funding. Municipal authorities have not yet recommended funding for these entities. United Community and Family Services, New London Homeless Hospitality Center, Uncas Health District, Thames River Council for Community Action and ARC Eastern Connecticut were among the funding applicants.