Peterborough Budget Committee and Select Board hear from IT and planning departments

  • Fash Farashahi presents the proposed IT/GIS budget  —STAFF PHOTO BY ROWAN WILSON

  • Peterborough Budget Committee and Select Board members hear from IT/GIS and Planning departments Tuesday night —STAFF PHOTO BY ROWAN WILSON

  • Town Planner Danica Melone presents the proposed planning and building budget —STAFF PHOTO BY ROWAN WILSON

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/25/2023 12:35:10 PM
Modified: 1/25/2023 12:34:44 PM

The Peterborough Budget Committee and Select Board met Tuesday night to hear from two departments, IT/GIS (information technology and geographic information systems) and planning. 

GIS/IT Director Fash Farashahi presented his department’s proposed 2023-2024 budget. If passed, the total operations budget would be $533,632, a 9.44 percent increase. Including capital outlay expenses, like computer, network and server systems and the public, educational and governmental access (PEG) station, which allows the town to broadcast video and is paid for through a revolving fund, not tax money, the total IT and PEG station proposed budget is $635,035, an 11.06 percent increase. 

Farashahi has budgeted $70,000 for capital outlay expenses. For the current budget year, the department budgeted $65,000. Farashahi explained that the town currently has two servers and he hopes to move from two servers to three large servers and a fourth that would handle certain files in the future. Farashahi said the town uses 10 terabytes of storage.

“We scan everything into storage,” including documents dating back to the 1800s, said Town Administrator Nicole MacStay. 

The department proposes increased funds going toward software upgrades, salaries and staff training, including an emphasis on cybersecurity training.

Budget Committee member Andrew Osterman questioned the importance of the department.

“What value are citizens getting for two-thirds of a million dollars?” Osterman asked, “This department doesn’t exist in other towns.”

“It’s not a secret that Peterborough is unique,” Farashahi said, “But other towns our size do use GIS.”

The town uses GIS software to create maps and apps with information collected from the town. The public works department, for example, uses an app Farashahi created to track data and locate the information they need while fully mobile. MacStay explained that the app was used when a water main broke recently, as the crew was able to pull up the app on the spot and all the data they needed to fix the issue was right there.

“This is why storage is so comprehensive,” MacStay said. “It saves us an incredible amount of time and money,” adding that crew sizes have become smaller because of this.

Planning Department budget down slightly

Town Planner Danica Melone presented the Planning Department’s budget. The total proposed planning and building budget is $319,012, a 0.43 percent decrease from the current budget. It includes a reallocation of a staff salary to the Public Works department that was listed under planning and building last year.

Melone explained that the town hopes to hire a full-time planning assistant/energy coordinator. This position would be supervised by Melone and support the town as it phases into its renewable energy goals. This position would help residents and small businesses who want to invest in renewable energy save money. The Inflation Reduction Act, passed in 2022, includes benefits for individuals who invest in renewable energy, and the town hopes to have an expert locally who can help guide people.

“I personally feel this is one of the most-critical positions in the town,” said Select Board member William Kennedy. 

Melone also discussed the town’s use of social media, as pages have been targeting young families in urban areas. Osterman asked, given the local lack of affordable housing, why the town would want more people to move here. Melone explained that they are not just trying to attract people, but developers and businesses who could develop land into affordable housing and grow the economy.


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