Montague eyes potential changes in wastewater treatment, airport and public health

  • The Turners Falls Municipal Airport is considering buying the neighboring 10.4-acre property owned by Pioneer Aviation, and would be borrowing money from the town of Montague for the purchase. That loan will likely be proposed in a Special Town Meeting planned for February. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • In early Montague Finance Committee budget discussions, the Water Pollution Control Facility was noted for ongoing capital improvement projects and potentially changing staff. Staff File Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 1/13/2021 3:44:31 PM

MONTAGUE — Financial planning for fiscal year 2022 is picking up this month and into the spring, as the Finance Committee begins reviewing each town department’s budget requests for the next fiscal year, which begins in July.

The talks may produce new information on the future plans of the Montague Water Pollution Control Facility, the Turners Falls Municipal Airport and the town Health Department, as the Finance Committee has said so far.

Finance Committee Chair Jen Audley said she aims for the committee to have reviewed all budget requests by March 10. Montague’s Annual Town Meeting, at which residents vote on the budget, is typically in May.

The Finance Committee’s interests in each department’s budget requests vary, as the committee discussed in an early budget meeting last week. The police and public works budgets, for example, typically have regular increases to account for yearly raises, but are still worth reviewing with each department head, said Finance Committee member Greg Garrison.

Others are less regular, and some are expected to have unique expenses next year.

The Water Pollution Control Facility was noted for ongoing capital improvement projects and potentially changing staff. Finance Committee member John Hanold noted that the sewer department is also bound to follow requirements set by the state, and that the committee should ensure the department’s budget will suit its requirements.

The Turners Falls Municipal Airport is notable this year because it is considering buying the neighboring 10.4-acre property owned by Pioneer Aviation, and would be borrowing money from the town of Montague for the purchase. That loan will likely be proposed in a Special Town Meeting planned for February.

Buying the property, which includes revenue-generating businesses like a flight school and fueling and maintenance facilities, would be expected to impact the airport’s budget until it begins collecting revenue from its new assets, Airport Manager Bryan Camden has previously explained.

The Finance Committee expects to review any budget requests from the airport after the February Town Meeting, after the airport has definitively decided whether to buy the property.

“If we do move forward with the purchase of Pioneer Aviation, then I expect we will want to talk about the airport’s budget moving forward,” Audley said.

Additionally, the town Health Department may aim for some changes, even if not in the next fiscal year. Audley noted that there may be interest in expanding the role of the public health nurse beyond the extra work in the position that the COVID-19 pandemic has created.

“A silver lining of the pandemic in our region is that there’s much more appreciation for the importance of public health nursing, and more support for it,” Audley said. “This does seem like it’s the right time to make strategic changes in the Board of Health’s budget, if that is what they wish to do.”

However, she added, permanent expansions to the nurse’s role have not yet been discussed between the Health Department and the Finance Committee. Up until now, she said the Health Department’s descriptions of its financial planning have only focused on immediate and ongoing needs related to the pandemic.

There is also interest in better understanding the long-term plans of the Parks & Recreation Department and the town libraries, although those departments are not necessarily expected to make major changes in the coming fiscal year.

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-930-4231.




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