North Attleboro police station

The North Attleboro Police Station, at the corner of Chestnut and South Washington streets, in downtown North Attleboro. (File photo.)

NORTH ATTLEBORO — Town council has approved the use of free cash to purchase public safety vehicles and other items that originally were going to be paid for through borrowing.

The town has more than $3.9 million in free cash and officials said they would rather use the borrowing for larger expenses, such as a new roof for Community School.

Town meeting had previously approved bonding for capital purchases including police cruisers, an ambulance, lighting, fire vests and helmets, but the council voted to rescind that borrowing authorization.

Acting Town Manager Michael Gallagher has recommended in the past that the town stop borrowing for cars and other items with a short life expectancy.

The council will now hold a public hearing on Dec. 16 on whether to use the freed-up borrowing capacity for the $1.87 million price tag on the school roof, a high school track and windows at the library.

In addition to the capital purchases, $400,000 to fund the OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits) account was approved.

The council rejected Gallagher’s request to place $1.1 million of free cash into the general stabilization fund. The move would have brought the total to approximately the 5 percent level of the town’s overall budget amount recommended by the state.

“Plans in town only work if we end up following them,” Councilor John Simmons said in support of the move. “We have this opportunity to both rescind borrowing, handle capital projects, put money away and still have 500-some-odd-thousand dollars left over.”

Councilors opposed to the move felt it was better to assess other needs before placing the money into stabilization.

“The facts are that we are not pigeonholed to have to do this right now,” Darius Gregory said in his explaining why he was going to oppose the recommendation.

Stabilization amounts are a key factor in determining a town’s bond rating. The next rating is expected to take place in March.

The council approved a contract extension for Gallagher through June. A similar vote was taken earlier this month.

The new extension provides language in the event a new manager opts not to have Gallagher stay on through the end of June.

“The charter is very clear that the town manager has hiring authority over any and all positions in the town, so by us making that appointment we were essentially cutting some of the authority of the town manager,” council President Keith Lapointe explained.

The contract was approved 7-2.

Monday’s meeting can be seen on North TV’s Government Channel: Comcast 98 and Verizon 23 and on northtv.net.

{p class=”Body”}To view highlights of the committee’s meeting: https://www.northtv.net/watch/blog/council-approves-2-1-million-in-purchases.

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