Published Date Written by Barbara TetreaultBut Mayor Paul Grenier last week said the grant will do little to help the fiscal 2014 budget woes because, while the application deadline is Aug. 10, the city will not learn until early next year if it is approved. At that point, the city will be halfway through the fiscal 2014 budget.
Grenier noted the city is in a difficult position. The council's preliminary fiscal 2014 budget calls for cutting two firefighters for a savings of about $140,000. Even with that cut and the elimination of three other city positions, the tax rate is projected to go up $1.44.
At the public budget hearing two weeks ago, there was overwhelming opposition to cutting the two firefighter positions. Grenier said he favors keeping four-person on-duty crews. He promised to go through the city budget to look for $140,000 to retain the two firefighter positions.
Grenier said he appreciated the help of state firefighters and David Lang, head of the Professional Firefighters of N.H. Lang pledged his union's assistance and lobbying power to advocate for the SAFER grant for Berlin.
The grant can be used to rehire laid-off firefighters, retain firefighters who may be laid off, or hire new firefighters. The grant provides full salary and benefits for two years with no requirement that the community retain the firefighter positions after the grant expires.
The city will apply for a two-year grant to fund four firefighters – the two positions the budget proposes to eliminate and two additional firefighters to bring the total force to 20 firefighters. Grenier said that would eliminate most of the need for overtime.
The council held a first reading of the fiscal 2014 budget last Monday and is scheduled to finalize it at the June 17 meeting.
Workcamp New EnglandDirectors Ken and Marcia Therrien reported their organization will again hold a work camp in Berlin from July 7-20. Junior and senior high school students from across the Northeast will come to the city to do volunteer home improvement projects for elderly and needy residents at no cost. Ken Therrien explained the camp is Christian-based but there is no proselytizing allowed and services are provided with no strings attached. He said the goal is to teach students leadership skills.
The Workcamp NE came to Berlin two years ago and provided 3,761 hours of work on 16 homes. Projects included painting, repairing and replacing roofs, two new ceilings, tearing down a porch, and other smaller projects. The value of the labor was estimated at over $21,000.
The workcamp will again use the high school for housing. Therrien stressed there is adult supervision and all students undergo safety training.
White Mountain Ridge RunnersThe council last week gave the White Mountain Ridge Runners snowmobile club permission to repair the snowmobile bridge on city property behind the Notre Dame Arena. The club actually wants to remove the bridge, which is too narrow for the club's groomer. The club needs a letter from the city to submit to the N.H. Department of Environmental Services, which must approve the work.
The club also sought and received council support for repairing their snowmobile trail on the Cates Hill landfill property and for creating a parking lot near the entrance of the landfill. That parking lot would be available to hikers using the trail to the summit of Mount Jasper