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Police officer approved, request for more cuts reneged

December 01, 2010
TILTON — Following an ultimatum from the selectmen to either leave an officer's salary out of the budget or add it in but make cuts elsewhere, Police Chief Robert Cormier made the cuts to keep the officer. In the end, however, the selectmen agreed the cuts affected public safety and approved a level-funded budget instead.

Had the board accepted the draft budget with the cuts that Cormier sacrificed for a patrolman, the police department's proposed budget would have been almost 2 percent lower than last year's. Instead, the budget has been level-funded at $1.75 million.

"There's a safety issue," board Chairman Pat Consentino said of why the selectmen changed their minds. "They are down officers."

Members of the police union came before the board several weeks ago asking for another patrolman. They cited safety issues and the fact that the current patrolmen were getting burnt out.

Several positions had never been replaced, including the detective spot left vacant by Michael Farrington and the captain position that Owen Wellington retired from earlier this year. Two patrolmen were moved to supervisory positions, but that left only six officers available for patrol.

Consentino said that while Officer Sonny Ashburn is expected to return from Afghanistan in February, it still leaves the department with too few patrolmen.

"After we looked into that (the union's request), our original motion was to propose to hire someone … on the contingency that it didn't add money to the budget," Consentino said. "I think we were really wrong in doing that."

The Budget Committee had been presented with a preview of the police department's budget with the extra cuts, and Consentino said the sentiment she got was that the committee was worried the cuts were too much.

"It's already a bare-bones budget," she said. "Where (Cormier) was trying to take money from was already tight."

Consentino said some examples including taking $5,000 from the $20,000 union negotiations line and $5,000 from grants.

"He was going to give up grant money for the officer," Consentino said. "(The board) came to the awareness that we were selling ourselves short. We didn't want him to overspend his budget."

The budget also includes money to hire two part-time officers to keep overtime down, as well as health insurance and retirement costs.

As part of the department's 10-year plan, approximately $28,000 has been budgeted for a new police cruiser. Like last year, the cruiser will be a separate warrant article for taxpayers to vote on. Cormier said the cruiser would be a brand-new model that gets much better gas mileage.

Other expenditures in the 2011 budget include new vests, which will be paid for in part through a grant.

Savings are expected in heat and electricity, phone, and gas.

"We've been very conscious about not running vehicles when we don't have to," Cormier said.

Overall, Consentino said the board is pleased with budget.

"It's very, very lean," she said. "We've gone down on everything we possibly could."

The selectmen will meet with the Budget Committee to go over its recommended budget on Dec. 8.

Martin Lord Osman
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