January 28, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES III • Page 7 Allendale Council’s austerity plan sparks questions, critique by John Koster The Allendale Council and Mayor Vince Barra drew some questions and some criticism for financial decisions to cope with a tough economic situation as the borough gears up for 2009 with some pre-budget cost cutting. Two new salary ordinances, one for road department workers and one for police officers, were unanimously adopted toward the end of the meeting where two separate dialogues between the council and residents focused on the need to control spending. “We’re in unsustainable territory where we’re going,” Mayor Barra said of the borough’s overview. “If we don’t make changes in the pay scales and benefits, we’re on the road to doom.” One of the topics of discussion was raised when members of the Allendale Library Board came to the council to contest control of one small room that could lead to big savings. The room is adjacent to the interior wall that separates the Allendale Library from the contiguous Allendale Borough Hall and near the construction office of Allendale’s administrative section of the joint building. The library staff has used the room for years. However, due to budgetary constraints, the council wants it for the municipal administration. Council members explained that a plan to expand space outside the rear footprint of the shared building and add 150 feet for a mandated special records room with a lock-down capability had foundered on the basis of high costs and a lack of available money. The budget had set aside $150,000 for the expansion, but two rounds of bidding failed to bring an acceptable price from contractors. The council decided to use the room for the state mandate by making a few internal structural changes at a fraction of the cost, but the library board turned out in force last week to disapprove. “We’re all going to have to sit down and see how we’re going to get through this,” Barra told Harvey Turer, head of the library board. Board members declined the opportunity to comment. Another issue discussed at the public meeting was a calculation of the actual salary increases in the council’s new budget ordinances covering the police department and the road department. The dialogue was far more temperate. Former council member Robert Paterson, who raised the issue, was praised for his interest and expertise. The council’s plan for the road department is to offer larger raises to the road workers in the lower and beginning $30,000 brackets, smaller increases to those in the upper $60,000 brackets, and to reward three of the best workers with appointments as crew chiefs, subject to the approval of Keith Cauwenberghs, who is in charge of Allendale’s outdoor workers. Cauwenberghs and Administrative Officer Gwen McCarthy, previously the borough clerk, split up the responsibilities of the borough administrator’s post when that job was eliminated last year in a previous costcutting measure. The plan for the police department is to add one addi- tional police officer to the force, the idea being that excessive police overtime due to being understaffed imposes a heavier burden on the police portion of the budget than the hiring of a new officer. Promotions of a sergeant to lieutenant or captain and of a patrolman to sergeant, anticipated later this year, would leave Allendale with eight patrol officers, but the one extra sworn officer could eliminate a great deal of overtime, officials said. Paterson took no strong stance against this concept, but he said that, in going over the numbers, he noticed that the officers now on duty were not being increased by 3.95 percent in salary, but by slightly over four percent. The council accessed the budget from Councilwoman Elizabeth White’s laptop and found the discrepancy: officers receive a $100 night differential which had not been figured in the 3.95 percent calculation. Paterson said the council’s calculations were that over the 25-year service career of a police officer, the new officer would cost the borough about $2.5 million in salary, benefits, and insurance. Barra did not disagree with the numbers, but said that hiring one new officer, even in times like these, would save the borough a vast amount of overtime and would increase police efficiency. “There’s no intention of implementing any action prior to July,” Barra said of the new hiring. “It will be under intense scrutiny and discussion among the Safety Committee and the Finance Committee. 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