LINCOLN – After 100 days in office, Town Administrator Phil Gould says he’s confident he’s gotten a good handle on many issues, including the upcoming budget process in which he said he hopes there is no need for a tax increase.
Gould told The Breeze this week he and other town leaders are highlighting a number of key items that are important to the future of the town, including infrastructure and equipment investments, a new litter ordinance, conversion of streetlights to LED, taking advantage of a new lateral transfer policy to attract new police officers, and addressing speeding and sidewalk safety, among others.
The town last week launched a new Facebook page to keep residents informed on day-to-day updates, and is also in the process of redoing its website, said Gould.
Town officials are meeting this week on a needs and wants list related to capital resolutions to possibly be ratified by the Budget Board at the upcoming Financial Town Meeting, said Gould.
One area of need is for new snowplows and other equipment, he said, as well as infrastructure upgrades to sewer, water, roads, sidewalks and paving, the last of which will likely fall under a new outside assessment program.
“There are a lot of things on the table and we need to start prioritizing and figuring out a plan of attack on what we can afford to do,” he said.
American Rescue Plan Act funds will help fill in for some lost revenue, he said, and the town will also be looking for latitude to target a range of infrastructure improvements. Another area of need is with sewer software, he said.
Gould said town officials will do “everything we can not to have a tax increase” in 2022, saying ARPA funds will help toward that goal. “We don’t anticipate a tax increase at all.”
He said he’s asked department heads to look again at ways to do things more efficiently and effectively, saying the “status quo is not the way to go all the time.” Within the past month, that work has included a control inventory on trucks and other equipment to create a fleet management program determining how old equipment is, what the town is spending on repairs, and identifying where preventative maintenance or replacements can be done. The town is currently spending a lot to keep certain pieces of its aging fleet of trucks on the road, he said, and some of those trucks are 20 years old.
Gould and others are also crafting a new litter ordinance updating some of the outdated aspects of the current ordinance. Changes would include sending those who dump mattresses or other trash to municipal court on civil violations instead of district court, where it’s a little harder to go after them.
“We’re going to be a little more aggressive in prosecuting and charging them for the mess they’re making of our town,” said Gould.
Lincoln’s dedicated volunteers continue going above and beyond to clean up, he said, as does the Department of Public Works, but it’s discouraging for them to have to see trash back in the same spots they cleaned up yesterday.
Also part of the new ordinance would be increased fines and possible community service for violators.
Working together with a great council and others, said Gould, he thinks the town can address many concerns from residents, including the ongoing effort to enhance signage and add attention-grabbing flashing lights at crosswalks. Speed enforcement is also a top priority heading into 2022, he said, and police will be more aggressive in cracking down on violators there as well.
Such an effort becomes difficult with only three or four officers on the road at a time, he said, which is why he worked hard to revise the lateral transfer policy to attract officers from other agencies. Seven officers down might not seem like a lot, he said, but it’s a big number when the entire Police Department only has 36 members.
Also helping to keep more officers on the road is the addition of per diem dispatchers, which will prevent having to put an officer on the desk when someone is out. The town was able to identify about a half-dozen people who had previous experience dispatching for police, said Gould, and when someone’s out, they get called in. Having these part-time dispatchers earning hourly wages with no benefits is a financial win, with less overtime paid out, and a better service to the community, he said, and it gives people who like the town and know the job a chance to earn a little money on the side.
The town will also look to secure its streetlights and transfer them to LED this year, said Gould, negotiating on a price that’s gone up over the past two years. Savings are expected to be close to $400,000, he noted.
Gould said being town administrator has been everything he expected and he’s appreciated the reception he’s received from residents, and he loves the change of pace of going to an Eagle Scout ceremony or lunch at the Senior Center. He said most residents have a very positive outlook on their community.
He said he’s had an easy learning curve as he’s benefited from knowing many town personnel before coming into office, and has been able to focus on priority items for the town instead of working long hours on a transition to new employees. Former Town Administrator Joe Almond did a great job, he said, and really had things running well when he departed, including an intact budget and projects already in process.
Gould said it’s been great to work with other officials, including members of the Town Council and Budget Board, for the betterment of the community.