Town Manager reveals 'State of Warren'
Pursuant to Section 4.04 of the Warren Town Charter it is the duty of the Town Manager to prepare and deliver an Annual State of the Town Report to the Town Council. The following is that report based upon preliminary 2013 data.
As of January 1, 2014 all town departments were 100 percent staffed, with the exception of the Department of Public Works which has one vacant position.
The Warren Fire Department is preliminarily reporting 41 more fire calls (399 in 2012 vs. 440 in 2013) and an increase in rescue calls of 176 (1,685 in 2012 vs. 1,861 in 2013).
Initial reports from the police department indicate an increase in “calls for service” by 695 (27,596 for 2012 in comparison to 28,291 in 2013). Arrests appear to have decreased by 91 (586 in 2012 vs. 495 in 2013) however, incidents investigated show an increase by 268 (1,857 in 2012 vs. 2,125 in 2013). Motor vehicle collisions appear to have increased by 22 (428 in 2012 vs. 450 in 2013).
The Department of Public Works continues to endeavor to increase the town’s recycling rate, recently adding the Bristol Warren Regional School District to include local schools in the regular town recycling route. This arrangement should have a positive financial effect for both the town and the school district.
The building official’s office is reporting an increase in building permits issued: 796 in 2013 vs. 653 in 2012. There has also been an increase in the number of inspections performed, 386 in 2013 as compared to 287 in 2012. These are reflected by an increase in revenue realized by the town, for example permitting fees collected have increased from $91,278 in 2012 to $141,952 in 2013.
In 2013 the Town of Warren completed the sale of the former Main Street School, Liberty Street School and the former VFW hall for a total of $277,000. It is anticipated that town building maintenance costs will thereby be reduced in the long-term.
The town has completed the replacement of the south Water Street waste water line and storm water management design, parking lot, sidewalk and roadway improvements along the Burr’s Hill Park area this year. This report notes only one “beach closing” during the summer of 2013.
In town hall a building-wide mold remediating project and HVAC pipe replacement project was recently completed, this was an unexpected coast and the director of public works is having his personnel (as available) gradually replace ceiling tiles which had to be removed in the process while other minor renovation projects within the building occur.
Both the Locust Terrace Waste Water Pump Station upgrade and the Franklin/Main Street area drainage projects are scheduled for construction this spring.
The engineering firm of Woodward& Curran is currently engaged by the town in a facilities plan amendment for the waste water treatment facility pursuant to a new RIDEM permit issued on August 28, 2013 consistent with a consent agreement to bring the facility into compliance with effluent nitrogen limits. The construction phase of this project is anticipated to be a multi-million dollar capital project.
The town clerk, town treasurer, town planner, assessor, senior center director, and social services director continue to provide services to citizens at a professional level.
In the course of the current budget the town planner was designated as the “administrative officer for the planning board” and the building official was supplementally designed as “zoning/regulatory/economic development liaison.” Both will work in concert with the economic development board and the newly hired part-time “Administrative Assistant for Economic Development” in encouraging Warren’s economic development and assisting persons with the navigation of local regulatory requirements.
As an aside, one recent indication of local economic development, the town has issued 10 new construction permits in 2013 as compared to three in 2012.
The net cost of Warren’s town government for fiscal 203-14 stands at $10,338,685. The town’s net cost of education for the same year is $11,681,278. Warren regularly derives 86.4 percent of its revenues from local property taxes.
Members of the Bristol Warren Regional School District Joint Finance Committee have entered into construction discussions as to possible amendments to the district’s enabling legislation to better project and calculate costs between the member communities in a manner which is better suited to changing fiscal and demographic environments of the twenty-first century.
The Town of Warren is up-to-date in its capital bonding. The town remains at a stable rating of Aa3 from Moodys, based upon a demonstrated strong fund balance reserve and manageable debt burden.
This year the Town of Warren was able to agree with the United Steel Workers Union (representing approximately 35 employees) to a cost sharing plan for health care costs. This new collective bargaining agreement adds the remaining 50 percent of the USW town employees to the co-shared cost tiered system which will now range (date of employment dependent) from 4 percent, 6 percent, 12.5 percent, 15 percent and 25 percent.
Therefore, it seems the challenge to the town is to address a decreased ratable tax base, increases in costs and activities, simultaneous with addressing the needs of its citizens, departments, school district, infrastructure, and new commitments to economic development. All of which has to be considered in conjunction with maintaining a strong fund balance and manageable debt burden.