Sheriff, board discuss possible regionalization


March 29, 2011
BARNSTEAD — Belknap County Sheriff Craig Wiggin met with the Barnstead Board of Selectmen at its Marh 22 meeting to discuss the idea of police force regionalization.

It has been suggested that by contracting police service with the county, the town could realize substantial budget savings. Though not yet attempted in New Hampshire, the practice is fairly common in many places.

"We're not re-inventing the wheel here," Wiggin explained. "This kind of consolidation happens all over the country."

He presented the board with a preliminary estimate of the initial costs and savings that could be expected if the plan was implemented.

Selectman Bob LaRoche wanted it emphasized that this was the very beginning of the process.

"We need the people to know that we are a long way from doing this and a lot of questions will have to be answered," he insisted.

Everyone agreed that the process would be lengthy, requiring scores of meetings between the town, the county and, of course, the attorneys. The concerns over coverage were the main focus for both LaRoche and board Chairman Dave Kerr. Wiggin explained that shifts would be determined by call volume and would be adjusted as needed. He reassured the board that coverage would equal what is currently used.

"We would overlap shifts and provide extra personnel on special occasions as needed," he noted.

"We would have input when those decisions were made," Kerr asked.

"Absolutely," Wiggin replied, "and if you don't like the job I'm doing, you can vote me out of office in two years." He also made it clear, as well, that current personnel would likely be absorbed into the Belknap County Sheriff's Department.

"That would be good if no one lost their job," noted Selectman Kathy Grillo.

Kerr thanked Wiggin and noting the positive responses from board members, said, "We've made a good start here and I think we should move forward."

Undoubtedly there will be hours of discussions ahead and the board would like input from residents throughout the process.

Fire Chief Mark Tetreault and Deputy Chief Shawn Mulcahy presented the board with the final cost for the defibrillator on the new ambulance. The board voted, unanimously, to authorize the purchase, which finalizes the order for the vehicle. Kerr had asked Tetreault, at the previous meeting, to look into having a data recorder installed on the ambulance. Mulcahy told the board that it would be expensive.

"There is no requirement for this type of device on this size vehicle and what is available is designed for larger trucks," he explained, adding, "we could get one, but with what we want to do with it, it would not be cost effective."

The board thanked Mulcahy for his input and decided to no longer consider the data recorder.

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