Services discussed at joint budget session

WILTON – The Recy­cling Center and the am­bulance service, although owned by the town of Wilton, are shared ser­vices, supported by the towns that use them. On Thursday, Jan. 12, the Wilton Budget Commit­tee invited officials from the other towns to discuss the proposed budgets and preliminary plans for the coming years.

Budget Committee Chairman Cary Hughes said all of the figures were preliminary.

"This is the worst-case scenario, and has not been approved," Hughes said. "We wanted to get your input."

A 3 percent raise is pro­posed for town employees.

The Recycling Center, also used by Lyndebor­ough, Greenville, Temple and Mason, received the most attention. The bud­get, presented by Man­ager Steve Elliott, is es­sentially flat. It has an increase of about 0.44 per­cent, or about $25,000, for a total budget of $525,121.

The distribution of costs is determined by popula­tion. Wilton pays about 36 percent, Greenville 20.6, Lyndeborough 16.5, Ma­son 13.5 and Temple 13.4.

Income from recycla­bles last year was $86,836.

"There is no sign that income will increase," Elliott said, "so we are again estimating $75,000."

Lyndeborough Select­man Lee Mayhew asked whether a plan had been considered in which us­ers buy special bags for disposal of trash. He said he realized it could keep away some users but that it would add income, which he said the center "really needs to do."

Elliott said it had been discussed, but because it would involve sales of the bags, "somebody has to handle the money, and we are trying to get away from that at the center."

Asked whether if rates for disposal of such items as appliances and tires could be raised, Elliott said whenever that’s done, more of them are found beside the road.

Elliott said the plan is to buy a scale in order to get a precise weight of materials being discard­ed. Now, it is a "guess on the volume," he said.

With the scale, to be used only for smaller ve­hicles, "We could charge the actual costs of mate­rials going into the land­fill," which should be more and a much fairer system, he said.

Elliott estimated the cost of the scale, plus the installation, at $45,000.

The idea was generally approved by the officials of the four user towns.

Last year, Wilton voters approved creating a "re­volving fund" that covers the expenses, and trans­ferred $40,169 into it from a capital reserve fund, plus a surplus of $19,460. This year’s surplus is es­timated at $11,836. A sur­plus was previously divid­ed among the user towns.

The reasoning behind the fund is to eliminate "ups and downs in the budget" during the years when there is a deficit, Elliott said. It currently contains $71,000.

Concerns were ex­pressed that that arrange­ment put all decisions in the hands of the Wilton selectmen. Hughes said he hoped they would con­sult with the Center Advi­sory Committee.

However, that commit­tee, recently reactivated, doesn’t yet have members for all towns. So far, only Mason and Lyndeborough have appointed members. The other selectmen said they had been unable to attract anyone.

The sticker program, which went into effect Jan. 1, is still being evaluated.

The Ambulance Ser­vice serves Lyndebor­ough and Temple from a station located on Route 31. The budget was pre­sented by Town Admin­istrator Scott Butcher, a total of $423,000, up from $369,292.

Service Director Gary Zirpolo is projecting a deficit of $12,000.

The service, based on population, has Wilton paying 55 percent, Lynde­borough 25 percent and Temple 20 percent.

The proposed increase of 15 percent for 2017 was considered unacceptable by several officials.

The increase is twofold: the need to increase the pay scale and the inabil­ity to collect bills.

The pay increase is needed to attract EMTs and paramedics, Butcher said. Wilton was pay­ing much less than sur­rounding towns. A three-year gradual raise had been proposed, but was changed to one year be­cause of the need for per­sonnel.

The service is also con­sidering hiring a full-time paraprofessional, since Zirpolo is the only full-time employee and has been filling in shifts.

Mayhew suggested hir­ing two part-time para­medics and thus saving on the benefits. Wilton Se­lectman Kermit Williams said they have a hard time finding part-time or per-diem employees.

Last year, the service "wrote off" about $70,000 as uncollectable, and an­other $119,000 in write-offs is possible, Butcher said. After 18 months, the billing service recom­mends taking other action such as a collection agen­cy or by the select board.

One problem is out-of-area people, usually those involved in auto accidents. Their insurance company pays them, but they often don’t reimburse the ambu­lance service.

"We are probably writ­ing off more than we should," Butcher said, "but these are residents."

Zirpolo said, "You can’t bill a patient more than Medicare or Medicaid pays," which is about 80 percent, Zirpolo said.

Selectmen said they check with their welfare directors to see if the pa­tient is unable to pay.

A new ambulance is not planned for several years. Wilton and Lyn­deborough contribute to a capital reserve fund. Temple prefers a one-time payment when a ve­hicle is purchased.