MINOT — The leaders of three major town departments have presented their 2019 budget proposals, totaling $33,000 less than the current year’s budgets, to town officials.

The three budgets for the Highway Department, Fire Department and town administration represent a net 2.2 percent decrease from the current year’s operating expenses, Town Administrator Danielle Loring told selectmen and Budget Committee members Monday.

They total $1.5 million, which is $33,252 less than the current year’s expenditure of $1.53 million.

The reason for the reduction is the expiring debt figure of $128,254, which includes the final payment for an Orchard Fire Station addition, paving the Town Office parking lot, the final payment on the Peterbilt truck bought by the town, and $18,398 in carry-forward funds from the current year’s budget, which will not require appropriation.

Highway Supervisor Scott Parker’s budget request of $816,594 is an increase of $18,492 from the current year. The increase is due primarily to hiring a new full-time employee, which was approved last year, and the purchase of a radio repeater.

Parker said the radio repeater is necessary. “We’ve had ongoing issues with our radio communication since (the Federal Communications Commission) narrow-banded the frequency,” he said.

Parker said the narrow banding has impeded radio coverage within the town. His drivers cannot talk to each other from certain areas of the town.

Parker and Fire Chief Jim Allen explained that a repeater receives a low signal on one frequency from one radio and can broadcast it out at a higher wattage on another frequency to the other trucks’ radios.

The repeater would be installed on the T-Mobile tower on Hersey Hill. No rent would be charged, but higher electric costs would be incurred. Parker said the town’s radios and antennas were inspected and they checked out fine. He added that it is more cost-effective to buy the equipment than to acquire more bandwidth and equipment on Streaked Mountain.

Allen’s operating budget is $2,040 less than the current year’s. He said in his proposal that the “decrease is due in part to adjusting costs to be more consistent with the prior year’s usage.”

Allen said replacing the Engine 8 pumper would require a warrant article. A piece of the pump casting on the 24-year-old firetruck broke earlier this year and costs to repair the pumper ranged from $20,000 to $30,000. The firetruck is valued at $40,000.

“It just isn’t worth it for us to get it fixed,” Allen said, noting that the truck has other issues. Costs for a newer pumper range from $370,000 to $525,000.

Loring said she has asked Androscoggin Bank to look at 5-, 7- and 10-year loan amounts of $300,000, $400,000 and $500,000. With that information, “The taxpayers will know right off the bat what we are committed to” at the March town meeting, she said.

Loring said there would be a cost savings if the town appropriates a payment in 2019. The town could use a portion of the its undesignated fund balance “either to buy down the principal or as a first payment.”

The selectmen and Budget Committee are set to meet again Tuesday, Nov. 13.

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