Phillips selectmen consider policy on emergency fund

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PHILLIPS — Selectmen on Tuesday night reviewed the possibility of establishing a policy to ensure availability of an emergency operating fund.

Most towns are encouraged to have 25 percent of their annual budget set aside, according to Town Manager Elaine Hubbard. She told selectmen that unless those funds are designated for specific purposes, the unappropriated funds can fluctuate with little advance warning. Any money left in accounts at the end of the town’s fiscal year could lapse into appropriated or unappropriated accounts.

Hubbard said property taxes don’t provide all the revenue to run the town, and no source of revenue is guaranteed. Voters approved an annual list of expenditures at the town meeting in June, but that’s based on anticipated revenue, she said. If the town experiences an emergency or loss of revenue, selectmen would be forced to borrow money at whatever interest rate a bank might charge.

“I would suggest selectmen really review this,” she said. “In 2006, our undesignated fund was $26,000.”

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Salaries, bills, utilities and all related expenses to run the town for three months in 2013 was approximately $547,000, Hubbard said.

In other news, Selectman Ray Gaudette reported what he learned from an emergency management workshop for municipal officials.

Gaudette explained that mandated Tier II reporting includes fuel tanks with more than 10,000 gallons of propane, 75,000 of gasoline or 100,000 of diesel fuel. Facilities and businesses must report inventories of substances or products that meet or exceed reporting thresholds. They must submit a Tier II Emergency and Hazardous Chemical Inventory report by March 1 of each year for hazardous substances or chemicals stored on site during the previous calendar year.

In addition to gasoline, propane and diesel fuel, large quantities of kerosene, lubricating oil, nitrogen, oxygen, sodium hypochlorite and calcium chloride are required to be in the report. These materials could spill or leach into water sources or the ground, ignite or explode.

Fire Chief James Gould is also the emergency management officer for the town, and he will provide an updated report for selectmen and Hubbard before the next meeting.

The town health officer, highway department and other municipal representatives are part of the town’s emergency management plan. Plans must cover ways to address challenges, including supplying and erecting barricades, signs, hiring temporary security or fire personnel and providing shelter for residents.

Hubbard announced that the Sandy River Business Association is hosting a meeting for community members at 6 p.m. Feb. 19. The purpose is to hear a Community Concepts speaker and discuss ways to find funding for developing the unused section of the Town Office. For more information, call 639-5421.

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