The Londonderry Town Council held a discussion during its Thursday, Nov. 7, meeting, following last Saturday’s Town Budget Hearing. Londonderry Chief of Police, William Hart, announced that the Police Department has decided not to purchase a new emergency back-up generator, despite it being approved by the voters in the March 2019 elections.
Chief Hart said that the generator was a source of some controversy and that the department took a hard look into the situation and now believes that the useful life of the current back-up generator is much longer than the LPD initially anticipated. The Chief suggested returning the money that was approved, $175,000, to the taxpayers, and stated: “It’s not that we don’t need it and it’s not that it’s not part of our long-term plan, but we don’t need it now and there are other priorities.”
The Chief said that the department was looking at a five-year window for the need for a new generator, but now believes it is probably a 10-year window. The back-up generator has been used for about 600 hours so far and its life expectancy is significantly longer than that. He added that the department has looked at using the back-up generator in different ways (assisting the Fire Department for example), but none of these ways seemed to work as effectively as waiting until the time comes that a new generator is actually needed. The Chief suggested that the issue of the generator could be brought back to the voters at that time. “It is after all their money”, said Chief Hart.
Councilor Tom Dolan said there were two ways to return the money – either to reduce the tax rate or put the money in the undesignated fund balance and hold it there for a future necessity. Dolan added that if the money were returned through the tax rate, in the event that money is needed again in the future, the town would have to go back to the voters with another warrant article. In response, the town’s Finance Director, Justin Campo, answered that the town could not keep the money for five years. The way this warrant article was written states that at the end of this Fiscal Year (Jun. 30, 2020), the town may extend it for another year and in the event the funds are not utilized for the purpose stated in the Warrant Article, then the issue must go to the voters again.
In its Sept.26 issue, The Londonderry Times, published a story regarding this question, which had been raised by Londonderry resident, Richard Bielinski. Bielinski was concerned and questioned the need for a new emergency back-up generator. Chief Hart has now confirmed what was stated in the original story published in the Londonderry Times. The current generator had only been used for approximately two percent of its typical lifespan of 30,000 hours. In addition, the only two maintenance jobs on the current generator, according to an official report, were on the Automatic Transfer Switch, which is not really a part of the generator. Other than those two maintenance issues the generator appeared to be in good condition.
In response to numerous questions Bielinski asked the town, including what kind of tests were made to make sure there was a need for a new generator (i.e. its size, etc.), the answer he received was that there were “no responsive governmental or public records available.”
Other than the generator issue, town employees provided a few updates, following the Town Budget Hearing. Town Manager, Kevin Smith, said that there is an adjustment in both the Town Manager proposed budget (a reduction of about $177,000) and the default budget (a reduction of about $170,000). The reason for this is the Collective Bargaining Contracts that end at the end of this Fiscal Year.
Smith said that while the town would normally budget the cost of living increases each year in the default budget and the proposed budget, those would now be done with separate warrant articles, assuming there are agreements on the Collective Bargaining Contracts with the unions. Finance Director, Justin Campo, added that the updated delta between the default budget and the proposed budget is now $6,692.
The town’s Director of Public Works and Engineering, Janusz Czyzowski, answered a question that was raised on Saturday’s budget hearing and said that the town is spending $124,000 annually on picking up solid waste and recycling from the town’s schools. He added that the contract is expected to go up, so the amount will be higher each year. Councilor Tom Dolan asked Smith how other communities in the area handle this issue. Do the towns or the School Departments pay for these services? He further questioned whether the town should send a bill to the School Department in Londonderry to cover these services? Smith answered that he will look into this issue.