ADAMS — The Adams Board of Selectmen has approved a $14.6 million town budget for fiscal 2017, albeit with some reluctant adjustments.
The board debated at length on Wednesday night regarding the addition of a seventh full-time position to the town's wastewater treatment plant, which was mandated by the state Department of Environmental Protection last week in a letter to town staff.
The additional position, approved by a 3-to-1 majority vote of the board taken after a second vote on the proposal, will cost the town an additional $63,950 from its free cash to pay for.
Otherwise, the budget largely remained the same as the version first introduced by Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco earlier this month. The spending plan reflects a 2 percent increase over the previous year.
Calling it a "more fiscally sustainable path," Mazzucco trumpeted the budget as the first in years to add to the town's reserves and rely less on its available free cash to offset the tax rate. The town was also buoyed by an unanticipated reduction in the Adams Cheshire Regional School District assessment, which allowed the selectmen to vote Wednesday to further offset the budget's reliance on free cash.
The budget did include some reduction in services.
The Department of Public Works lost a deputy director through attrition.
The Adams Free Library lost one full-time position, but the selectmen did make an adjustment to approve $15,000 for a part-time position to the library to make up for the full-time loss.
Savings were also incurred by the elimination of 1.85 dispatcher positions, which are being paid for instead by emergency service providers.
Other highlights of the budget include a renewed investment of more than $40,000 in kicking off development work at the Greylock Glen.
Thanks to the savings found in the school district, the budget wasn't ruined by the unexpected addition of a wastewater treatment plant position. But that didn't make the selectmen any less angry about it. Mazzucco said he plans to meet with town counsel on appealing the DEP's staffing requirement.
Saying that the DEP's decision was "unfair," Mazzucco said the agency also rejected a town-conducted staffing study of its wastewater treatment plant.
Selectman Arthur Harrington, who voted against adding the position, questioned what the DEP would do if the town didn't comply.
"I don't think we should support this," Harrington said.
Mazzucco said that while the town would appeal the DEP's decision, it would not defy it. The town is required to comply by July 31, and, if need be, Mazzucco said he would reposition a Highway Department employee to the treatment plant.
"I disagree with being cavalier," Mazzucco said.
Selectman Joseph Nowak initially opposed adding the position, but reversed his decision in order to allow the motion to pass in a vote he called "the worst I've ever taken as a selectman."
Harrington, however, was steadfast in his disagreement with the DEP's decision.
"If we appoint the position now, we're giving up," Harrington said.
Selectman John Duval was absent from the meeting and did not vote.
The selectmen did not allocate any funding for capital improvements to the critical infrastructure needs at C.T. Plunkett Elementary School. Mazzucco recommended such a proposal be placed directly on the town meeting warrant outside of the budget.
Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376