By Jann Wiswall

The Town of Mansfield’s Board held a public hearing on its preliminary 2015 budget at its meeting on Monday, Oct. 20. No town residents attended the hearing, and the board adopted the budget as final.

The 2015 budget is balanced, with expenses for general government totaling $352,845 compared to the 2014 budget of $340,453. Highway department expenses total $764,137, compared to $751,633 in 2014. Revenues will meet expenses.

The board will not increase the property tax rate in 2015. The rate will remain at $4.75 per $1,000 of assessed property value, a number that has not changed since 2013.

Town Supervisor Bob Keis said the town is on track to meet its 2014 budget goals, however, he warned that there could be a short-term cash flow issue over the next month or so.

“Bills are due before sales tax and other revenues are received in November,” he explained.

If needed, the town board may have to take out a bond anticipation note (BAN) in order to pay some bills.

“I hate to do that, because it makes it look like we’re low on cash,” said Keis of the BAN. “We’re not low on cash. We’re low on cash flow.”

FEMA Recovery Update

Representatives of Simmons Recovery Consultants (SRC), the firm hired by the town to handle FEMA damage claims, reported that all but one of the 16 road projects identified as damaged due to heavy flooding last May had been submitted to FEMA. The final project was due to be submitted on Tuesday, Oct. 21.

SRC was hired to help the town more accurately assess damages to town roads, bridges, drainage ditches and culverts that can be attributed to heavy storms last May. SRC originally identified an estimated $343,500 of reimbursable damages. Actual claims will be closer to $360,000-$375,000 after recommended mitigation efforts are figured in.

Now that all claims are in, SRC’s work enters phase 2. This involves its expert and precise review of FEMA’s responses to each of the 16 claims. To date, the town has not received any response from FEMA.

Keis asked the board to enter into a phase 2 contract with SRC so that it can immediately review those documents and respond to FEMA with any questions or corrections. He suggested the extension should be for no more than $5,000 over a one-year period since the process could last into spring 2015.

After some discussion, the board ultimately decided to authorize the $5,000 maximum expense and to extend its contract with SRC for three years, with the option of extending it for another 1-2 years. This allows the town to call on SRC if another FEMA event occurs, without having to go through a request for proposals process. The contract may be cancelled at any time, and Mansfield has complete control over how much or little the company is used.

Kent Road Bridge

Keis updated the board on the status of Mansfield Bridge No. 32 on Kent Road. As previously reported, the town and Cattaraugus County disagreed on who owns the bridge and who is responsible for repairs or replacement.

After months of research, the town and county uncovered documentation that the bridge was repaired in 1968-1969 by the county. In exchange, the town board of directors at the time agreed to take over maintenance of the bridge. As a result, it is Mansfield’s responsibility.

In April, engineering firm E&M Engineers and Surveyors was hired by the town to inspect the condition of the bridge. The firm’s report indicates that structural and hydraulic repairs or replacement of the bridge should be considered in the long term. In the short term, they recommended that filling the scour hole with new stone fill and replacing a waler brace would make the bridge adequate for a maximum 20-ton vehicle weight.

The scour hole work can be taken care of by the Mansfield Highway Department, but the department does not have the equipment or expertise to do the bracing. Keis said he would talk with the county’s Department of Public Works about contracting with it to do that work in 2015. If the county is unavailable, the town will go out to bid for those services.

Long-term repairs to the bridge will be considered over the next few years.

Kidney Road Speed Limit

At the board’s September meeting, several residents asked the town about reducing the 55 mph speed limit on Kidney Road to 40-45 mph. They felt the change was needed for safety reasons. The town has submitted the necessary paperwork to the state asking it to conduct a traffic study. The state has final say on the matter. Meanwhile, Highway Superintendent Brad Hurley has installed traffic signs warning drivers to be aware of Amish buggies.

The next meeting of the Mansfield board will be held on Monday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall. All are welcome.