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News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, January 30, 2014
Fire Department sees increases
“A number of unknowns” expected in Sedgwick school budget even as it heads to printer

by Bette Britt

With a Monday, February 10, date for getting the town meeting warrant to the printer, selectmen and budget committee members heard from Fire Chief David Carter that “everything is more” when presenting the Sedgwick Volunteer Fire Department budget for 2014-15.

The figure raised at town meeting last year was $43,500, Carter added, before pointing out that maintenance and apparatus costs are “up a lot more.” Carter estimated an additional $12,000 would be needed to cover costs this coming year, bringing the request closer to $55,000, but in an effort to keep the annual budget under control, the purchase of additional turnout gear has been omitted. Looking ahead, Carter indicated a new pumper will be needed by 2018; the last one cost $213,550, with some grant funding available.

In addition to ongoing training, the 45-member volunteer fire department responded to 92 calls in 2013, the highest number to date, said Carter, with a nod to cooperation between departments from neighboring towns. Selectmen complimented the fire chief for his report and noted there should be a request for turnout gear added to the department’s budget.

Union 76 Superintendent Mark Jenkins appeared before selectmen and budget committee members between presentations from the local fire department and the area ambulance corps. He did not come bearing copies of the 2014-15 school budget, saying the process would have to be done in two parts. His return with the figures needed for the town report could come next Thursday, with more information available after an additional school board meeting on Tuesday, February 4. Jenkins did, however, pass out copies of an overview of what was termed “primarily a maintenance budget” insofar as it doesn’t indicate “any large or significant changes in spending habits.” Changes proposed include the single staffing of an additional half-day of art instruction and additional hours for the kitchen staff.

The Superintendent’s written report stated “there will be a number of unknowns in the budget when it goes to print.” At this point, said Jenkins to the selectmen and budget committee members, it was “an overview…a guideline,” and, when prodded, he predicted a 3-percent increase in the eventual budget, with the possibility of drawing down from undesignated funds if needed for major changes. A completed draft of the budget will be available Thursday, February 6, Jenkins assured those present, who had indicated impatience with the process of getting a 2014-15 school budget to the printer in an orderly manner.

The Peninsula Ambulance Corps was represented by Robert Vaughan, who had a financial request to make of the town and information about the overall PAC budget. Based on a per capita figure of $12.43, which included the organization’s reserve fund, the amount requested from Sedgwick is the same as last year, $14,867. Vaughan’s review was extensive, indicating what he quoted as being “one of the best small ambulance services in Maine” operates at a loss and explaining costs and reimbursements, as well as the need to plan for purchase of two new ambulances.