Hampden Board of Selectmen Tackles Town Infrastructure and Budget

The Hampden Board of Selectmen’s recent meeting centered on issues including the town’s financial health, infrastructure challenges, and the expansion of the water district.

Auditor Jeff Jenden presented the FY 23 audit report, which resulted in an unqualified opinion. He emphasized the town’s solid financial practices, noting reserves of approximately $2 million, with free cash at $900,000 and stabilization at $1.1 million. The audit focused on the town’s largest assets and departments, such as the collector’s office, treasurer’s office, and assessor’s office.

The board also addressed the significant rise in health insurance costs, a concern for the town’s finances and its employees. To mitigate these rising costs, the board discussed adjusting the percentage of health insurance paid by employees. The change, to be implemented over three years, would increase the employee contribution from 50% to 75%.

In the realm of public safety and community service, the Fire Department proposed making its junior firefighter program a permanent appointment. The program aims to train individuals at a younger age, with the board expressing support for the program, while noting the importance of safety and liability for the young participants.

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The Water Commission’s proposal for expanding the water district was a topic of extensive debate, considering the potential strain on the existing infrastructure, including the pump house and tank storage. The commission provided estimates for expansion costs and discussed the return on investment, as well as the potential inclusion of filtration in the project. The board pondered the financial implications and the need for a comprehensive assessment of the project’s viability.

The potential costs and necessary upgrades for the water district sparked further discussion. The board considered a warrant article for up to half a million dollars to cover the expansion of the water district infrastructure, including additional testing of homes and budget increases for paperwork and clerical work.

Concerning town properties, the board expressed urgency in disconnecting the sprinkler system at the police station, following an order from the Department of Environmental Protection. Additionally, the board discussed solar pilot agreements and the impact of legislative changes on taxation of solar facilities. The assessors’ office provided insights into taxation and the board weighed the benefits of such agreements against their potential impact on tax revenue.

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The town’s revenue from solar projects was another fiscal topic. The possibility of a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement was considered, alongside a fee on solar facilities based on energy production. The suggestion to reform the solar bylaw committee was made in light of ongoing legislative changes, highlighting the need to understand the community’s implications.

The board also contemplated forming a facilities management position to oversee town buildings and properties, debating the necessity and budgeting for this role. Other budget items reviewed included insurance, employee benefits, and facility maintenance. The potential need for an upgrade of the town’s website management was addressed, as well as the performance of the current custodial crew and the consideration of hiring a new cleaning service.

The meeting also touched on other community concerns, such as wildlife control, emergency management, traffic, water testing, shared services, and the upcoming elections for various positions in the town government. Further discussions included the need for a public hearing on pole positions and the possibility of holding town meetings concurrently with neighboring towns. A conversation about the cable license agreement was also on the agenda, with a suggestion to schedule a meeting specifically to address this issue.

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Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Town Administrator:
Robert Markel
City Council Officials:
Donald Davenport, Craig Rivest, John D. Flynn, Lauren McCormick (Administrative Assistant)

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