By Jim Sullivan
---- — AMESBURY — Mayor Ken Gray asked Department of Public Works director Rob Desmarais to cut two percent from his Public Services budget for the next fiscal year, and that is what he did, Desmarais told the finance committee last night.
Mayor Gray released his budget of $53,863,035 to the City Council earlier this week with $1,331,044 allocated for the DPW Public Services, down $27,233 from the current fiscal year. Currently in the last year of a three-year contract, salaries for Public Services were up $29,972 while overtime was down $9,447.
Desmarais also oversees a variety of other functions such as recycling and refuse disposal, the water and sewer departments, and the removal of snow and ice, all of which have separate budgets yet all fall under the same department.
Recycle and refuse made up $880,017 of the fiscal year’s budget, accounting for an increase of $1,097 after a contract change with G. Mello Disposal Corp. Desmarais said the residents of Amesbury were able to minimize the impact by increasing recycling efforts thanks to increased awareness.
The water department request is $3,914,226, up $99,133 from last year which Desmarais said was largely due to an increase of debt due to the water treatment plant upgrade at Newton Road. It was a smaller amount than originally planned thanks to some trimming of expenses. The sewer department request is $2,806,782, up $16,420.
Snow and ice removal was level funded at $225,000; this past particularly long and cold winter saw an expenditure of $487,452. The snow and ice budget is the only budget that can legally be overspent, and greater details will be made available next month when the final transfers occur.
Desmarais said that no layoffs are planned and only three temporary summer internship positions in Public Services were effected, the first position was retired as planned and the other two positions will not be filled this year.
Finance committee member Paul Sickorez asked Desmarais for a quick progress report on Pleasant Valley Road, the site of the oldest water main in the city. Paving of the road has not been added to the budget since the DPW needs to replace the 2.5 miles worth of pipes underneath.
Desmarais is exploring state funding assistance for the potential project in fiscal year 2016 and since a temporary repaving would have to be replaced at that time, no work has been done. Committee David Moavenzadeh suggested cycling groups in the area might be able to hold fundraisers to help with the road paving and said that he would look into that possibility himself.