PITTSFIELD, Maine — When town councilors approved the 2009 municipal operating and capital budgets this week, they added in a few items that would change the bottom line.
Some of these were Tasers for the Police Department, a research contract for the public library, street sweeper rental and personal protective gear for firefighters.
A portion of that increase was offset by health insurance costs that came in lower than projected. The overall increase was a small amount, just $12,914, so Town Manager Kathryn Ruth said tax rates would not be affected.
But a project with much larger implications could be looming for the town’s aging infrastructure.
Both the water and sewer budgets also were raised, she said. The water budget included an additional $10,000 and the sewer budget an extra $15,000, both increases to be applied toward engineering studies and field surveys for a new and sudden grant opportunity.
Ruth explained that an economic stimulus opportunity has just been offered by the state and the town will need to move quickly. “This may not come around again for decades,” Ruth said Thursday. The loan funding would be at zero percent interest, she said, and is part of the state’s economic stimulus package.
Ruth said the town, if approved, could borrow $3 million or $4 million for infrastructure upgrades at no interest. “Because the interest on such an amount would be millions, it’s almost like getting a grant,” she said.
The town needs to move quickly, she said, since applications for the funding are due Jan. 9. “This is an exciting new opportunity,’” she said.
Ruth explained that because the last U.S. Census determined that Pittsfield did not have a high enough population of low-income residents, the town does not now qualify for Community Development Block Grants.
Part of the extra funding in the town’s budget will fund a survey of the water department’s customer base to see if the median income is truly too high.