BRIDGEWATER — The Board of Selectmen, meeting Tuesday, May 12, reported town spending is under budget as the fiscal year nears the end. The roads budget also has a surplus.
Town Treasurer Susan Wilcox said the police budget also is expected to have a return since police have not been as active during the Covid-19 pandemic.
First Selectman Curtis Read said one-seventh of the 2019-20 budget will remain unspent by the start of the new fiscal year on Wednesday, July 1.
“We’re in pretty good shape,” said Mr. Read. “I don’t see any problems with the budget.”
He noted Bridgewater is ranked second for largest ratio of money in the reserve fund with Warren coming in first. He said the town is in a great financial position, noting many other towns face deficit budgets.
“A lot of towns will be under financial pressure for the next year,” said Mr. Read. “We’ll be able to weather the storm.”
Selectmen discussed plans on preparing to bring people back to Town Hall after May 20. Mr. Read said Town Hall has been open during the pandemic, however with a limited number of people at a time working in the building.
Selectmen bounced around ideas on how to make the building safe for the rest of the staff, including installing plexiglass in several offices and between desks. The first selectman said money from the contingency could fund the plexiglass installation.
“We need to take some steps to protect our workers,” said Mr. Read. “I was thinking about putting up plexiglass for the tax collector, town clerk and assessor so they can do their work and not get breathed on.”
He added officials will look at other towns to see what measures of protection have been implemented. He noted Brookfield has hired someone to wipe down surfaces every two hours, but said Bridgewater is too small for that type of service.
“Towns are coming up with their own thing,” said Mr. Read.
Selectman Alan Brown said he thought May 20 was still too soon to reopen with no real protection in place, saying town officials need to err on the side of caution.
Mr. Read said other towns are trying to have their employees tested before going back to town offices to see if they have antibodies or anything related to Covid-19.
“You can still be contagious without a fever,” said Mr. Brown. “There is very little way of controlling it.”
Mr. Read suggested residents need to wash their hands when they come to town hall then stand behind a barrier and come by appointment only.
In the meantime, until more specific guidance comes from the state, the town will create barriers for town hall employees.
“We have people terrified of being around others and don’t want to be in harm’s way,” said Mr. Read. “But work needs to be done and we’ll probably adjust shifts.”
He also predicted the pandemic could be a long road ahead of them and they need to be mindful about that. Tests for Covid-19 currently cost $130 per test, according to Ann Marie Wagner, the selectmen’s assistant, and officials will look into coverage for tests.
Mr. Read said he will find a carpenter to install the plexiglass, calling the matter an emergency.
“We could have a liability if we don’t do anything, so this needs to be done soon,” said Mr. Read. “We don’t have a town hall big enough to have someone wipe things down every two hours.”
Selectmen also discussed appraisals for the LoCIP-funded municipal parking lot plans; they will go over bids for the project at their next meeting. Mr. Read said the town is looking at work for Center Street and sidewalks.
The selectmen discussed at length potential plans for the sidewalk and what areas it would extend to. Further details on bids and costs will be reviewed at the next selectmen’s meeting.
The board approved the coordinated medical emergency direction designation of $492.30 to be given to the Litchfield County dispatch.
Mr. Read said this happens every year with Connecticut distributing a set amount of credit and in the past Bridgewater has given those funds to Litchfield dispatch.