St. John Valley

Van Buren town council discusses updating town technology at second budget meeting

VAN BUREN, Maine — Van Buren Town Council met April 28 at the American Legion post to discuss proposed budgets for the fire department, library and general government. 

No significant changes are planned for the fire department or the library budget, though the general government has been adjusted specifically because of the addition of deputy town manager Luke Dyer to the town office staff. Dyer, a former sergeant for the now-shuttered police department, is training to be the town’s next bookkeeper. 

These meetings are working sessions for the councilors to review the budget with the town manager and deputy town manager as well as certain department heads. Wednesday night’s hottest topic of conversation was adapting the budget to match the current council’s desire to prepare proactively for the future needs of the town. 

From fixing sports amenities to planning for large future purchases, the councilors and managers agreed the town should move to anticipate upcoming costs and prepare for them rather than avoid them altogether — a mentality councilor Paul Nadeau said had been damaging to previous councils.

“You’re so busy picking up the pennies that you trip over the nickles, dimes and the quarters,” he said.

Councilor John Beaulieu highlighted the need to stay on top of the town’s technological needs specifically, saying that planning ahead and knowing the lifespan of town computers and software is essential, given the rapid rate at which technology ages. 

“Unless you’re Elon Musk and you’ve got a trillion dollars to throw at it, you’re never going to be on top of technology because it changes almost by the second now. It’s ridiculous,” Beaulieu said. “But there’s no reason to be five or six years behind the power curve.”

Specifically at the library, councilors saw an opportunity to use $1,800 left over from last year’s allocation for books and periodicals to potentially buy new computers to replace some of the more outdated terminals. 

Town manager Nancy Troeger said that the current computers range between five and nine years old.

“You might have more interest in the library if you’ve got a brand new computer versus something that’s seven years old,” Councilor Peter Madore said.

Troeger, Dyer and the councilors all agreed, though no action was taken at that meeting. 

Also on their minds was a bill — LD 328 — which if enacted, would increase revenue sharing between the state and municipalities from 3.75 percent to 5 percent retroactive to January. The change would mean more financial support from the state for Van Buren and other towns.

Councilors discussed some of the possible uses of that money on Wednesday. For example, helping fund equipment purchases for the fire department and other high-cost expenditures without putting an additional burden on the taxpayers. The bill is awaiting action in the Maine Legislature.

Next week, the council will meet at the Fire Station for a regular Tuesday meeting. The council will continue budgetary discussions, considering allocations for the parks and recreation department, the economic development committee and “miscellaneous and unclassified” funds. Nadeau will also present a bid for a new highway department truck.

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