By Beckey Harvey
DUDLEY - The March 18 Board of Selectmen’s meeting opened with Fire Chief Dean Kochanowski, requesting that Mr. Dave Karalus, who was serving on the building committee and fire chief advisory committee, be replaced by Mr. Burt Davis. Karalus submitted a letter of resignation last month. Chairman Jonathan Ruda suggested that the committee approve the appointment of Davis and send a letter of thanks to Karalus for his service.
The board switched up the order of the agenda so that the “rather lengthy public hearing” would not hold up a representative from Nichols College. Multiple requests by the school, for alcohol permits, were taken care of in one motion. Nichols college received seven separate, single-day licenses to serve “wine and malt” for functions they will be hosting.
A public hearing was opened so that the public could question the department heads of the fire, highway, and police departments regarding an override of roughly $400,000.
Also present to answer questions were the Superintendent of Schools and the School Business Manager. Sean Gilrein and Bill Trafone voiced their support for the override. One point that Gilrein made was that this override would ease the burden on the town in the future. He noted that the school systems are being required to upgrade to online testing by the 2014-2015 school-year, a goal that Dudley-Charlton is nowhere near being able to fulfill. In passing an override, the town would not need to stave off all of the upgrades, leaving them to be done all in one chunk.
Three specific recommendations by the school system’s use of their portion of the override, $232,000,) would cover technology upgrades. Special Education and Title I programs, which will most likely be losing over five percent of its federal funding, would be funded through this override. The third recommendation by the school committee would be to use funds to upgrade textbooks and resources, allowing the school to keep current and move toward the goal of building the curriculum around the new state common core standards. Trafone noted that Dudley is in the lowest twelve percent of the state in what they spend per student through taxation.
Police Chief, Steven J. Wojnar, joined the conversation to state the amounts that the respective departments would be requesting: $ 78,000 fire department, $50,000 for the police department and $40,000 for the highway department. The selectmen pointed out that once these figures are set, they will not change. In other words, all of the departments are agreeing that although they are asking for a combined amount, each department will have claim only to those aforementioned amounts.
Mr. Ruda made the analogy that this proposed funding is like a pizza pie. No matter how you slice it, the pie is the same size. People may cut it into different sizes, but all the parts put together will always come out the same size. His point being: the town may get this funding, and no matter how it is split up, the amount to the townspeople won’t change. All agreed. Gilrein pointed out that the point was making sure that people know how important the funding, in general is. Without it, the town will begin to slip into a backwards slide. He also pointed out that Dudley is only one of over a hundred towns in the state which are battling these same funding issues.
Chief Kochanowski spoke next about the $78,000 requested for the fire department. He mentioned that the fire department generates revenue, unlike the other departments in the town. He is looking only for enough money to maintain the services currently available. He is not looking to add services. Without the proposed funding, the fire department would need to change back to a part-time service with regards to paramedic/ambulance services.
Chief Wojnar once again took the microphone to explain his request for $50,000. First up is to increase the visibility of a school resource officer from three days a week to five. He said that it is not only a successful program, but one that has proven to be desperately needed. He also noted that his department is still down four officers. “The town is woefully in need” with regards to how much the townspeople pay in “toward the bills that need to be paid.” Wojnar said that all of the requests that are being made by the four departments are desperately needed and vitally important. He also pointed out that the tax rate will only increase by fifty cents. It represents less than two dollars a week, so for the price of a small cup of coffee, townspeople could have the vital services that the fire, police, school and highway departments offer.
“We get the best service that we can pay for, not the best service that money can buy,” stated the chairman. Wojnar replied that Dudley does not offer the services it should for a town its size, because the people haven’t agreed to pay for those services. Mandatory costs, according to Peter Fox, which are assessed to the town, often take precedence over some of the services that people wish for. In the end, Wojnar said that he is looking to restore services, as opposed to expanding them. He wanted to return to the previous levels which the town enjoyed.
Dudley citizens will be given the opportunity to vote on whether or not to approve these requested amounts at the next town meeting.