January 25, 2012LITTLETON — After much debate over the level of service that Littleton needs and that its residents want, all voters this March will get a chance to tell the selectmen what they expect from their highway, police and fire departments.
During their meeting Monday night, the Board of Selectmen discussed the nonbinding referendum and decided, despite a few residents' reservations about what it will accomplish, that they will go ahead with the information-seeking effort. The nonbinding referendum will be handed to voters alongside the ballots.
What Chairman Ron Bolt said is popularly referred to as "24/7/365" asks voters to check one of three statements having to do with three town departments.
For the Highway Department: Do voters believe workers "should keep all town roads safely passable day and night and weekends"; "should only put in overtime to keep priority roads and sidewalks clear"; or "should only work regular daytime shift hours to plow and sand roads and sidewalks?"
For the Police Department: Do voters believe Littleton officers should be "manning the police station, patrolling and available for emergency calls, 24 hours a day, seven days a week'; "should cover two daytime shifts generally from 6 a.m. to midnight"; or "should work regular daytime hours; on nights and weekends the town can rely on other non-town emergency services such as the State Police or Sheriff's Department, or do without?"
For the Fire Department: Do voters believe "the fire station should be manned by on-duty full-time and call company firefighters available to respond to fires and rescues in all areas of town, 24 hours a day"; "the fire station should be manned by on-duty full-time and call company firefighters during regular daytime hours, but should solely rely on on-call company personnel during nights and weekends; or "Littleton only needs a call company fire department even if it takes longer to respond to fires and rescues?"
For Vice Chairman Marghie Seymour and Bolt — Selectman Mike Gilman was absent Monday night — the question is to just get an idea of what people would like to see in their town without considering the cost. While a vocal few attend meetings, the majority of voters aren't heard from throughout the year and likely don't closely track where all the tax dollars are going.
"But they know when they don't like the level of service that they're getting. They know when the roads aren't taken care of or the sidewalks aren't taken care of … they complain about that," said Seymour. "I would guess that 90 percent of the people in town have no idea … what the price tag is on each individual department."
But the sticking point for a few residents is the fear that voters won't really know what they are endorsing.
"I really would wish you'd reconsider the question, because there's not enough information put out," said Jerry Sorlucco, referring to the lack of providing figures on how much money will be associated with each level of service. "I think it's a very confusing question. I think the feedback you will get will not have much value."
Eddy Moore agreed with Sorlucco about the potential feedback's lack of value, and also said that without the dollar amounts attached voters will of course choose the best service.
"I think if you want to know what the voters want, they want all of those things," said Moore. "But when you put the price in front of them … they might have a different opinion."
"I don't know that that's the case," countered Bolt. "I've had people say that they don't expect the fire department to show up, so they certainly don't want the top level [of service] there."
The Chairman said that if there were a strong response either way, the feedback from the referendum would likely be taken into consideration when the next budget is compiled.
The selectmen also considered Monday night a second nonbinding referendum that asks voters if they would like to move the current election site at the fire station to the Opera House or the Daisy Bronson Middle School.
The board decided that the options being given needed a little more review and they would revisit it at their next meeting.