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Sharon

Voters challenge police services

Payments to Peterborough for library access questioned, but no changes made

  • Sharon town meeting<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Sharon town meeting<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Sharon town meeting<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Sharon town meeting<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Mary Ellen Bushnell, left, Chet Bowles and Marc LaPlante, right, applaud Town Moderator Hampton Howard, center, who stepped down after many years of service at the end of Tuesday's Town Meeting.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Sharon town meeting<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

SHARON — Voters unanimously approved a $338,334 operating budget at Town Meeting on Tuesday, but not until they aired some gripes about whether they were paying too much for police coverage.

The budget calls for $85,776 in the police line item, which is to be paid to the town of Peterborough. That’s about a $6,000 increase over 2012, Selectmen’s Assistant Chet Bowles said during his review of the budget proposal. Bowles said the hike was largely due to the fact that the state no longer contributes to the retirement plans of police officers, which has driven costs up for the town of Peterborough. Sharon pays Peterborough based on a per capita basis, Bowles said.

“I feel we should be doing this on a per-call basis,” said resident Jim Martens. “There are a lot more calls in Peterborough.”

Select Board Chair Marc LaPlante responded that the town has limited options.

“Per capita seems to be the right way to go,” LaPlante said. “We’re comfortable with the arrangement we have now.”

“I wonder if everyone is?” Martens replied.

Ted O’Brien said the town should talk to Peterborough about a per-call arrangement. “I don’t think we get the patrolling we deserve,” he said. “If we put it on a per-call basis, we could save.”

Select Board member Linda Paris said there are more police calls in Sharon than people realize, and LaPlante said Peterborough police regularly patrol the town. LaPlante’s statement was seconded by Ken Callahan.

Mark Fernald said that previous discussions about a per-call arrangement with Peterborough had been unproductive and Bowles said no recent discussions of the topic had taken place.

Paris suggested that voters with concerns should bring them to the board prior to Town Meeting. “In a year, no one has come in here to talk about police until tonight,” she said.

No one made any motions to change the town’s budget and it was passed on a voice vote.

Voters approved $7,000 to pay membership fees at the Peterborough Town Library. They discussed possibly changing their agreement with Peterborough and in the future reimbursing residents for library cards at any local library. Some residents said the town should not pay for library cards at all.

“Why are we even in the library business in the first place?” asked Gary Backstrom.

Gerry Debonis said libraries are a service that should be available to everyone. “If not for the presence of Peterborough, we would not have the culture of town that we do,” he said, urging voters to continue to support the Peterborough library.

Voters also set up a reserve fund for preventive maintenance of the Brick School House and approved $2,500 to start the fund, and set up a reserve fund with $2,000 to purchase supplies and materials for archiving town documents. They put $15,000 into the town’s legal expense fund and put $15,000 in the Bridge Fund to go toward repairs to the Cross Road Bridge, scheduled to start in 2014.

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