WALLINGFORD — Residents asked questions of town department heads at a remote public hearing on the mayor's proposed 2021-22 budget Monday night.
The department heads did not answer the questions during the special meeting of the Town Council, unlike in past years.
Town Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni said the department heads will have a chance answer the questions during their respective budget workshop with the council, which are scheduled to begin this week.
Last year, as the pandemic forced town meetings to go virtual, the budget public hearing was also run without answers from department heads.
“It's just more manageable for the virtual meeting format,” Cervoni said after the meeting via email. “The department heads were all noting the questions and will have answers for the budget workshops.”
He added that if the council resumes in-person meetings by next year’s budget public hearing, he would presume the council would return to allowing department heads to answer questions.
Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. released his $177,090,079 budget proposal last week.
Three people had questions about Wallingford Government TV, the municipal government access cable television channel.
WGTV broadcasts, live streams and archives many of Wallingford’s public meetings.
Susan Huizenga, executive director of the local public access cable television station WPAA, asked about the possibility of merging resources.
“Government TV is one of three channels in the community,” she said, “and in many communities they work together. With changing staff, there's an opportunity to merge some resources and save significant taxpayer money, and the board of WPAA would like that to be considered...”
WGTV manager Scott Hanley is slated to retire this month. Although Dickinson has said he may not replace Hanley with a full time employee, he funded a department request for a manager position plus seven part-time staff for a total of $116,391. Hanley’s annual salary had reached $92,636.
Residents Bob Gross and Adelheid Koepfer both asked if Dickinson plans on replacing Hanley with a full time staff member. He also asked if town meetings could still be live streamed when boards start regularly meeting in-person again.
Koepfer asked if it was possible to upload audio recordings of meetings to the town website since some boards, such as the Public Utilities Commission, don’t video record in-person meetings.
Other questions touched on employee insurance and benefits, property and casualty insurance, diversity and ethics training for the Town Council and town employees, police staffing, hiring a grant writer, town payment of public utilities for education and nonprofit use of town-owned buildings, road paving, the absence of funding for a mental health program and Youth and Social Services losing an employee.
A remote budget workshop is scheduled for Tuesday following the regular Town Council meeting, slated to start at 6:30 p.m.
The council can make amendments to Dickinson's budget before voting to adopt a 2021-22 budget in May. If the council does not adopt an amended budget, the mayor's proposal will go into effect automatically.