June 22, 2007 - MEMBER ARTICLE
Selectmen again question DPW spending

GOFFSTOWN - On March 30th of this year, selectmen had expressed concern over the spending of another $98,000 to complete the Grasmere roundabout, but subsequently approved the work subject to putting a halt to plans for constructing future roundabouts until the effectiveness and success of the Grasmere circle can be ascertained. 

At Monday night's selectmen's meeting, board members again reviewed the budget figures of the town's Public Works Department with Director Carl Quiram. 

One area that concerned selectmen was that to date, DPW has already expended 72% of its allotted overtime.  But Quiram said he was not concerned.  "I don't think we're in trouble.  It's a little deceiving on overtime because we have have four months of winter in spring, so there's only pretty much December to worry about (this year), and lately our Decembers have been pretty light. That doesn't mean, I'm not gonna say it's always that way, but, you know, the last several years our Decembers have been quite light, so I don't panic when I see that kind of overtime number for this time of year," he told the board.

But most notably was a discussion regarding DPW's recent purchase of the town's new excavator. In a Special Article which appeared on the March 2006 ballot, DPW asked voters for $100K for the purchase. This expenditure was in addition to DPW's $1.8M Road Plan and $4.2M operating budget. The article was voted down. 

DPW had been lease-purchasing the excavator at a cost of $50,000 a year. At the August 3, 2006 meeting of the CIP committee, a discussion was held on buying out the lease for $80,000. 

As a result, $80,000 was authorized for the excavator buy-out purchase as a CIP line item. Quiram then suceeded in purchasing the excavator for a price "in the sixty-something thousand range", resulting in a substantial savings. 

But taxpayers did not realize the savings they could have, as Quiram then used some of that savings to purchase an add-on for the excavator. During the meeting, Selectman Nick Campasano asked Quiram about those expenditures.

"We bought a narrow trenching bucket for the machine as well, so it was not something that was in the original bid, but it was a, you know, it's for underdrain so we don't have to overdig underdrains," Quiram told the board.

Campasano countered by pointning out that such an expenditure should have come out of Quiram's budget and not the CIP line for the excavator. 

Board chairman John Caprio agreed with Campasano, telling Quiram, "If we see an estimate for something, and this is not just necessarily your department but any department, and it comes in under, we're looking at the scope of something being 'X' and then it ends up being 'Y' because some money was saved and something else was purchased."

Quiram responded, "Yeah. The discussion is one of purchasing policy - what's the authority of department heads to buy 'widgets'. I mean, that's the discussion probably we should be having."

But Campasano disagreed, saying "No. I don't think it's that. We've got your budget, we've got CIP. CIP is a specific amount targeted for a specific purpose, which we did.  And then I remember a discussion where you came to us and said 'I can save money by purchasing this earlier'," he said. Quiram answered, "Which we did."

Again, Campasano disagreed. "But that savings is then further reduced by an additional purchase which I think should come out of your budget. I think the CIP is an amount targeted for a specific purpose. If that should come in under budget, I think that's surplus. I don't look at the CIP as a 'budgeting area'," he said. 

Then Quiram asked, "Just out of curiosity, if it came in over (the $80,000), how do you handle that?"

"You wouldn't be able to purchase it," said Campasano

Chairman Caprio attempted to sum up the board's position by telling Quiram, "This is something that would appear to be out of scope, out of scope in terms of the original plan." He continued, "And it was serendipitous to be sure, but nonetheless, you know, that wasn't our expectation.  Our expectation was saving that amount of money, whatever that delta was.  Now it turns out to be less."


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