York delays use of $100,000 in contingency funding to help clean up microburst damage

Posted July 22, 2014, at 12:31 p.m.

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Carol Bressi examines the damage to her car and home on Donica Road in York, Maine, after a severe thunderstorm pounded the town July 15.
Ioanna Raptis | The York Weekly
Carol Bressi examines the damage to her car and home on Donica Road in York, Maine, after a severe thunderstorm pounded the town July 15.

YORK, Maine — The Board of Selectmen on Monday deferred releasing $100,000 from a contingency account to pay for tree cleanup from last week’s microburst storm but said the town would pay its bills.

In an unanimous vote, the five-member board moved to have the town manager pay the bills as necessary and wait for a full accounting of expenses prior to releasing contingency funds.

Selectmen agreed to allow residents to place tree debris curbside for town pickup to the transfer station. Department of Public Works Director Dean Lessard is requesting residents move material to the side of the road for pickup by Monday, July 28.

The town’s contingency account of $100,000 is on the town budget referendum each May. It authorizes selectmen to spend up to $100,000 for emergencies and other needs not known when preparing for the budget, according to the warrant article approved by voters this past May and in previous years.

The last time the contingency was used was in 2010, when York experienced a June microburst storm that felled trees and cut power lines.

Lessard estimated $90,000 to $100,000 was spent in 2010 for tree removal, and he said Monday he expected to need a similar amount to clean up damage from the microburst of July 15. The bulk of the funds would go to pay for three private contractors hired to remove trees and limbs from streets, rights of way and sidewalks, he said.

Lessard said Lee Tree Co., Abbott Bros Inc. and Pierre Puffer have been employed; he has yet to receive a bill. He estimated each so far had put in about 75 hours, at $100 an hour for the cost of the crew, for an estimated $7,500 for each contractor.

That doesn’t include hiring the contractors to pick up tree debris curbside, as was approved Monday and has been past practice, he said.

There’s also the cost of overtime, according to Lessard.

Besides town crews working on tree removal, employees have kept the transfer station open for additional hours for the convenience of residents to bring in tree debris, he said.

Police Chief Doug Bracy said the York Police Department accumulated an estimated $4,400 in detail cost for the storm. The expense could be covered in his overtime budget, he said, though that would mean the money wouldn’t be there to cover additional time for vacations or extra hours needed for investigative work.

After selectmen Ron Nowell and Torbert Macdonald voiced opposition to releasing contingency funds prior to knowing the amount billed, other selectmen agreed to wait.

Macdonald said unlike the 2010 microburst, the current storm felled hardwood trees, which have a value as cord wood for any contractor who removed the debris.

Chairwoman Mary Andrews directed Lessard to look into having the wood available at the transfer station for families who needed it to heat their homes.

Nowell said there could be other emergencies, and the fiscal year had only just begun July 1.

“If you need emergency appropriation, you use up $100,000 — that’s it,” Nowell said. “I think we’re jumping the gun. I don’t know what’s been spent.”

Andrews asked Town Manager Rob Yandow what would happen if there was another microburst, hurricane or winter storm that required emergency funding.

Yandow said one option would be to ask voters for funds, either in November or May 2015, and to see if previously approved contingency funds could be expended.

Yandow said he could write the checks to pay the contractors, but if the money doesn’t come from the contingency account at the end of the fiscal year, there is no place from within the budget to pay the bills.

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