GILFORD — In a nearly 180-degree turnaround from last year's discussions, the Budget Committee last week endorsed without much comment the recommended Fire Department budget for 2014 of $1,682,083.
The total proposed budget is $21,491 or 1.3 percent higher than last year, most of which is reflected by a 3-percent raise for staff and the replacement of some protective clothing for firefighters that Chief Steve Carrier said is replaced every seven years.
The operations portion of the proposed 2014 budget is down about 3.3 percent or $6,300. Carrier said he had reconfigured his call roster to try and keep overtime down. Overtime represents about 16 percent of the wage line.
Carrier said he didn't anticipate any major equipment purchases except the purchase of a new ambulance that is part of the town's overall Capital Improvement Program budget and will appear as a separate warrant article. The ambulance is expected to cost $205,000 — all of which will come from the ambulance revenue account except $59,000 that is in an old capital reserve ambulance account.
He is also asking for a "rehab" of Engine 2. Carrier said he wanted to stay away from the work "refurbishment" because the "rehab" is not a complete overhaul but is painting the truck, adding an updated light bar, and possibly replacing the radiator.
Carrier noted the Engine 4 — the subject of so much controversy during last year's budget-building cycle — is operating well and can be used as the first attack engine for the month that Engine 2 is being rehabilitated.
The Budget Committee also recommended about $50,000 worth of work on the Fire Station. The request includes the second floor carpet, window replacements, and the complete replacement of the three bay doors on the ground level behind the station that were used by the Public Works Department when it was located there.
Carrier said efforts in the past to replace individual panels on the bay doors have been expensive and he's not sure if any replacement panels are still available.
He said that along with the new roof, he hopes the repairs will be more energy efficient.
The Budget Committee also approved without any comment a Police Department budget that includes the addition of an 18th officer. The total recommended amount is $2,434,959.
Selectman Gus Benavides said the last police officer position added to the ranks was in 2003, when the department added a School Resource Officer.
In order to allay any confusion, Benavides, who is the selectman's representative to the committee, reminded the Budget Committee that two years ago selectmen had recommended reducing the number of officers from 17 to 16 but the Budget Committee had overruled them and added back the money for the position.