MASSENA - The Massena Town Council adopted its 2014 preliminary budget Wednesday night, but some changes will likely be made when they meet next week.
Town Clerk Georgette Davis told the board that in order to hold the public hearing on the budget as planned it had to adopt its $7.7 million budget before they meet next Wednesday in order to publish the required legal notice seven days prior to the meeting.
After hearing the boards last budget presentation of the season, Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray wanted to know whether board members thought they could complete the budget last night.
I dont think we can. We need another meeting, Councilman Albert C. Nicola said.
The board then briefly debated whether to meet next week or to simply finalize their budget on Nov. 6.
I dont think were looking at a lot of changes, Councilman John F. Macaulay said.
Were looking at some, Mr. Nicola replied.
The town boards most experienced elected official also said he was opposed to waiting two weeks to finalize the budget.
Weve met with all these agencies and received their requests. We need to give them an answer, he said.
The board will finalize its 2014 when they meet again at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Library board officials requested an additional $5,000 in funding.
Library Board Chairman Mark Englert initially requested an additional $10,000, but it was later revealed that there was a $5,000 discrepancy between the documents he was reading and the towns actual proposal.
We would appreciate an additional $10,000 for resources, Mr. Englert said, explaining that is the money the library uses to purchase books, magazines, newspapers and other materials that help make the facility a library.
If we dont have the stock, were not going to get the customers, he said, adding that the library would use the additional funds to boost their adult fiction collection and bring more electronic books and publications to the library.
Mr. Grays first question for Mr. Englert though, had noting to do with his allocation request, after noting he read that the library would like to move its childrens librarian from part-time to full-time.
If adult numbers are down, why would we want to spend more on the childrens librarian? he asked.
Right now were not even addressing that, Mr. Englert replied.
Library Director Elaine Dunn-Thayer though, felt compelled to answer the supervisors question.
When youre working with the childrens library, collection is very important, but programming is also important, she said.
While Mr. Macaulay said he supports the library and even specifically the childrens library, he said he wasnt so sure that hiring a childrens librarian last year was such a good idea.
We went through a lot with budget discussions last year. It was quite difficult, he said. Yet you went and filled the childrens library position. Now we have a higher commitment for personnel services in place of resources. Thats a problem for me. To me its putting a lot of pressure on this board.
Mr. Gray agreed with Mr. Macaulay, noting that the position, which was funded this year through the use of library reserves, was actually cut from his budget.
Emily Hutchinson, who serves with Mr. Englert on the library board, said its impossible to have a library without a childrens librarian, noting that the person was actually already hired before the town began its budget process.
We are not able to not have a childrens librarian, she said, adding the money theyre requesting might not necessarily be used entirely for adult books.
Ms. Thayer agreed that the childrens librarian is an important position.
If we eliminate that position, we might as well close the childrens room, she said. If you lock out the children, we would lose the families and then we might as well close the library.
Ms. Thayer noted that more than half of the librarys clientele are either children or young adults.
Ms. Hutchinson also informed board members that the childrens librarian position is here to stay, noting that should the librarys financial situation get worse its not the childrens librarian they would cut.
We wouldnt cut the childrens librarian. We would cut eight or nine part-time staff and have a part-time library, she said.
Outgoing Councilman Charles A. Chuck Raiti also offered the library a piece of advice.
Be very careful of this thing with Brasher, he said, referring to the efforts to open a branch library there.
I know theyre saying this isnt going to cost you anything, but there are going to be expenses that you dont even known about, he said.
Business Development Corporation Board President Daniel Pease requested a $15,000 increase in their allotment from $60,000 to $75,000, a request that was essentially granted Wednesday night by the authorization of a budget transfer to the BDC, something that Mr. Gray said he had been considering.
My thought was if we had the money we should make you whole, he said, noting the town had made a prior commitment to provide the BDC with $60,000 last year.
We budgeted $30,000 because we were short last year, he said.
Mr. Pease said should the BDC receive additional funding, he would like to see them restore trips to conventions, where they can market the Massena community.
We kind of had to delay those due to budget concerns, he said, adding that they did partner with the OBPA (Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority) and have jointly attended some events together in recent years.
Our target businesses though are not necessarily the same as what the OBPA is going after, he said.
The board and Mr. Pease then discussed a proposed raise for BDC Executive Director Thomas Sullivan, who is currently earning $34,000.
While Mr. Pease said the BDCs budget is calling for his salary to jump $6,000 to $40,000, Mr. Pease said, Thats not a raise.
Mr. Pease explained that when Mr. Sullivan was employed he was hired as a part-timer with the expectation of working 20 to 25 hours per week.
In actuality, hes working in excess of 30 hours per week and sometimes 40 hours per week.
Mr. Nicola noted that the $6,000 jump translates to a salary increase of 15 percent.
That represents maybe some sticker shock, he said.
Mr. Pease then reiterated that in his eyes Mr. Sullivan is not receiving a raise, noting his per hour rate is not changing.
If Tom were being paid for 40 hours per week, I wouldnt propose a 15 percent raise. That would be crazy, he said.
Mr. Nicola said he was under the impression that Mr. Sullivans salary was going to be renegotiated following a six-month evaluation, at which point, based on Mr. Sullivans performance a raise would be negotiated.
Mr. Sullivan said that by the time the towns 2014 budget is implemented he would have been on the job for more than six months.
This wouldnt be going into effect until 2014 anyway, he said.
Mr. Nicola then asked if the BDC had the funds available to pay his proposed salary without the additional $15,000.
Even at 60 and 60, we would have enough to pay him $40,000, Mr. Pease said, referring to the anticipated contribution of $60,000 from the village and originally proposed $60,000 from the town.
Despite the town agreeing to provide the BDC with an additional $15,000, Mr. Macaulay said there could come a time when the town isnt able to provide the BDC with anything.
If we dont have gaming compact money, I dont see the town being able to support the BDC, he said, to which Mr. Pease replied, Were pretty confident that well be able to show you that was money well spent.
The boards focus then shifted to a proposed rail spur that would connect portions of the BDCs industrial park with an already existing CSX railway. The first phase of that project would connect the railroad to Curran Renewable Energy, with a second phase planned that would loop around the park and connect to currently vacant properties in the park to help make them more marketable.
Mr. Pease said Phase I of the railroad project has a $942,000 price tag, but with already received grants and anticipated in-kind services, the BDC finds themselves needing only $106,000.
BDC Board member Paul Rufa said should the town provide them with $106,000, that would enable them to complete Phase I of their project.
With this money we would be able to connect to Currans buildings, he said, noting the project also has a third phase planned that would involve the installation of a railroad scale.
We have commitment to ship out of the park once the spur is built, Mr. Rufa said, noting that the already received grant funds are slated to expire in 2014.
We could ask for an extension, but were not sure we would get it, he said, noting they have already received several extensions.
Mr. Macaulay noted that since CSX would be making money off of the railroad maybe they would be willing to contribute to the cost of building it.
Any chance of getting money from them? he asked.
No, Mr. Rufa said.
Mr. Pease then said rather than having CSX contribute to the cost of the project he would like to see the railroad lower its shipping rates to and from Massena in order to make Massenas industrial park a more competitive place to do business.
Could we connect any jobs to the improvement? Mr. Gray asked.
Mr. Rufa said he wasnt sure the answer to that question and told Mr. Gray he should speak with Pat Curran, who owns Curran Renewable Energy.
Mr. Sullivan said the proposed railroad expansion should be looked at as an opportunity for the community.
Without it there is no opportunity, he said. With it, there is opportunity.
The Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce also made a presentation to the board, although they said they were pleased with their allocation of $14,500, which was $6,400 more than they received as part of the 2013 spending plan.
Like any other organization we would take any more money that you would like to give us, said Chamber of Commerce President Miriam S. Catapano. We look at ourselves as the tourism center for both the town and the village.
Mr. Gray also informed the chamber that he was providing them with $5,000 to fund summer help at the Eisenhower Locks Gift Shop, an allocation that he hoped could be profitable for the chamber.
With the addition of the summer help, we could generate some money, she said. But without it, its not a money maker.
Ms. Catapano said the chamber of commerce currently has around 300 members and once they get a new director on boar, theyre hoping to see that number grow.
New members and member retention is one of our number one goals, she said, adding she is hopeful that a new chamber director will start work prior to the new year.