By Keith Eddings
---- — LAWRENCE — City councilors last night voted to spend $240,000 to replace about 100 dilapidated voting booths — some in use since Franklin D. Roosevelt was on the ballot — and to pay the city’s share of the statewide special elections in April and June that will fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant last month when John Kerry became Secretary of State.
The council also scheduled a public hearing for March 19 on a proposal to spend $15,000 to put high-powered rifles in police cruisers, which Police Chief John Romero said would be needed to confront a gunman bent on the kind of mass murder that occurred in Newtown, Conn., in December.
Also last night, the council received a request to spend another $354,000 to provide health care and income subsidies to local veterans following a spike in the number seeking services that occurred as the city stepped up outreach.
The new appropriation would increase spending on veteran’s programs this year to just over $1 million, including about $700,000 that would be reimbursed by the state.
None of the spending approved or proposed last night was included in the budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30, but would be covered by the $5 million that remains in the $6.6 million surplus the city amassed in the last fiscal year.
The surplus would drop to $4.6 million if the councilors approve the new spending for veterans programs and police rifles, on top of the funding for the voting booths and the two upcoming elections that were approved last night.
Overruns in the $200,000 the city budgeted for snow and ice removal this winter will eat up much of the rest of last year’s surplus.
The expiration of a $6.6 million federal grant that paid the salaries of 38 firefighters for two years could consume what’s left of the surplus if Mayor William Lantigua and the councilors agreed to use it to keep the firefighters on the payroll.