Town’s least talkative budget hear­ing

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By Roger Piantadosi Rap­pa­han­nock News staff

The Wash­ing­ton Town Coun­cil held its of­fi­cial pub­lic hear­ing on the town’s $907,500 fis­cal 2015 budget at its reg­u­lar monthly meet­ing Mon­day (May 12) at town hall.

None of the half-dozen cit­i­zens present had any­thing to say, and Mayor John Sul­li­van closed the hear­ing about 30 sec­onds later. The fis­cal year starts July 1; the coun­cil will vote to adopt the budget at its June meet­ing (which was resched­uled later dur­ing Mon­day’s meet­ing from June 9 to June 16).

The budget is $129,700 higher than last year’s, the sin­gle

largest in­crease com­ing un­der the budget’s “Op­er­a­tions” cat­e­gory, where a $90,000 “Con­tin­gency Fund for All Uses” ap­pears for the first time.

The budget also re­flects an in­crease in es­ti­mated meals-and-lodg­ing tax rev­enue, the town’s largest source of rev­enue, from fis­cal year 2014’s budget es­ti­mate of $280,000 (al­ready ex­ceeded by $20,000 of ac­tual rev­enue a month ago) to an es­ti­mated $360,000 in fis­cal 2015.

The coun­cil’s six re­turn­ing mem­bers, and new mem­ber Kather­ine Leggett, who were un­event­fully voted into of­fice in the May 6 town elec­tion (in which none of the seats were con­tested), will also be sworn in at the June 16 meet­ing.

Sul­li­van said he hoped that de­part­ing coun­cil mem­ber Alice But­ler, who’d de­cided not to seek a fifth four-year term on the town’s gov­ern­ing body, would be at the June meet­ing for a proper send­off. “But in the mean­time, I wanted to ac­knowl­edge all of Alice’s many years on the town coun­cil,” he said. “I sat next to her when I first started on the coun­cil, and while Alice is not the most talkative mem­ber of the coun­cil, when­ever she leaned over or asked a ques­tion, it was al­ways right on the mark.

“It’s not ex­actly fun serv­ing on the town coun­cil,” said Sul­li­van, “so I wanted to say how much your years on the coun­cil are ap­pre­ci­ated.”

But­ler smiled shyly as the room ap­plauded, af­ter­ward choos­ing to re­main among the coun­cil’s least talkative mem­bers.

Af­ter a brief dis­cus­sion, the coun­cil voted 5- 0 to al­lo­cate an additional $ 2,000 to the paint­ing of Avon Hall (vice mayor Gary Schwartz and Patrick O’Con­nell were ab­sent), the for­mer Car­ri­gan es­tate owned by the town. In re­sponse to ques­tions from the au­di­ence, Sul­li­van and town clerk Laura Dodd said the additional ex­pense, which brought the to­tal cost for the roof and ex­te­rior paint­ing job to $11,700, was due to a “mis­un­der­stand­ing, on the town’s part” of what was in­cluded in the bid by con­trac­tor Mark’s Paint­ing.

Sul­li­van said most of the work is done, and that the build­ing — which will be the back­drop for this Satur­day’s Rap­pa­han­nock Amer­i­cana Mu­sic Fes­ti­val, or­ga­nized by Ben “Cooter” Jones and Alma Vi­a­tor — “looks pretty damn good.”

He sug­gested that town res­i­dents, in keep­ing with the event’s Amer­i­cana theme, put out Amer­i­can flags for the weekend, In­de­pen­dence Day-style.

The coun­cil also ap­proved a $ 600 la­bor es­ti­mate from ESS, which op­er­ates the town’s waste­water- treat­ment plant, to re­place the plant’s “air­lift fil­ter.” This is in ad­di­tion to the $ 950 cost of the new fil­ter.

Res­i­dent Gary Aichele, who co- owns the Gay Street Inn, asked if the town had plans to cre­ate any sort of cap­i­tal fund to deal with such emer­gen­cies, or whether the funds would con­tinue to come out of the town’s op­er­a­tions budget.

“That’s a re­ally good ques­tion, and a good point,” Sul­li­van said. “I think we need to talk about hav­ing some sort of cap­i­tal fund.”

With the treat­ment plant, which is ap­proach­ing five years old, Dodd noted that the town “is just get­ting to the point where things are start­ing to break.”

“Plan­ning and an­tic­i­pat­ing re­pairs and re­place­ments,” Aichele said, “might be prefer­able to get­ting caught short and hav­ing to bor­row.”

Sul­li­van an­nounced that town res­i­dent Judy DeSarno had vol­un­teered to lead the group of vol­un­teers plan­ning for next year’s Christ­mas in Wash­ing­ton pa­rade and hol­i­day fes­ti­val.

He also noted that ( in an­tic­i­pa­tion of this weekend’s Amer­i­cana Fes­ti­val con­certs at Avon Hall and the Theatre in Wash­ing­ton), the town was plan­ning to plant flow­ers in all its street- side flower tubs this week.

If you drove through town Tues­day af­ter­noon, in the al­most 90- de­gree heat that pre­ceded evening thun­der­storms, you would have seen Dodd, Sul­li­van and sev­eral other vol­un­teers do­ing just that.

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