Town approves article for third full-time officer

Police will near 24-hour coverage when position is filled

  • Greenfield resident Eileen Eber expresses her concerns with the understaffed police department at town meeting on Saturday Mar. 15. at the Greenfield Meetinghouse.

GREENFIELD — Residents of Greenfield decided the time has come to employ a third full-time police officer due to “changing times” and a common sentiment that Police Chief Brian Giammarino can’t continue to be responsible for as much police work as he currently deals with.

Article 8 on the warrant asked for $40,813 to support the salary of a third full-time officer. The amount will provide $31,000 in wages for the remainder 2014, equal to $40,000 annually. The additional $9,813 will be allocated for life insurance, disability insurance, retirement and overtime.

Robert Wimpory, chair of the select board, opened talks by saying, “Based on growth of the town and challenges of small town crime, we need 24-hour coverage.” Wimpory said that a third full-time officer will not give the town 24-hour coverage, but it would help.

Chief Giammarino took the floor and let the townspeople know that if article 8 passed, he would cut the part-time budget line of the police budget in half to help offset costs. “We have needed a third officer since 2008. I didn’t have the guts to come and ask you. I know this is asking a lot,” he said. According to Giammarino, the police department saw an increase in calls last year.

Greenfield resident and retired police chief Andrew Heck spoke out against the article. “The town doesn’t warrant another full-time officer when we are really only busy two to three months a year, even with the uptick in calls from last year.”

Norm Nickerson refuted Heck’s comments saying, “We are a training ground for good officers, if [the chief] says he needs another officer, I believe him.”

Sheldon Pennoyer echoed Nickerson’s comments, “Once an officer leaves, all progress with that person is lost. A new officer would allow the chief to run his operation more fluid.”

The article ultimately passed, and a relieved Giammarino walked to the rear of the meetinghouse.

Article 9 asked for $228,698 to support the police department. After amending the fuel budget line from $12,000 to $13,500 to factor in a rise in fuel cost, the overall police department budget totaled $230,198 and was approved by voters.

The town’s operating budget of $594,053 was passed, but not without controversy. The townspeople questioned the raises included for town employees. Wimpory defended the employees, saying, “These individuals have done excellent. We need them to be happy here and know that they are being treated properly. The figures are in line with the salaries of same positions in surrounding towns,” he said.

Article 12 asked the town for $18,000 to replace the old meetinghouse cemetery fence. Cemetery trustee Margaret Charig Bliss spoke to the townspeople, “We have an opportunity to preserve public downtown property.” According to Charig Bliss, the trustees have raised just under $400 from donation buckets. “We plan to do corporate fundraising if the article passes,” she said. “The fence is important to a lot of people, including former residents who no longer live in town.”

When asked if the town was required to have a fenced in cemetery, Charig Bliss said that their is no such requirement.

Greenfield resident Linda Dodge spoke in favor of the fence. “I want the fence. That’s the look of our town. I want [the fence] back.”

Resident Karen Day was in favor of a new fence but balked at the overall dollar amount. “I would be in favor of a long-term program to raise money for the fence. We could take it down now, then slowly raise money for a new one.”

Eye-sore or not, the article was ultimately voted down.

The most talked about petition article was number 19 on the warrant, to see if the town would accept Driscoll Road as a Class V road. Petitioner and landowner Ron Lucas addressed the crowd. “The seven families that live on the road have upgraded it little by little,” Lucas said. “We do not have deep pockets. For 30 years, we have maintained this road ourselves using our own equipment and materials. We pay our taxes and feel as though we have paid our dues, road is ready for the town to take over.”

Selectman Karen Day felt that it was important for the highway inspector to observe the road in all four seasons. Day proposed a successful amendment to add this to the article. After this was added, the article was voted on and passed.

Other articles voters passed during the seven-hour meeting included $157,500 for road reconstruction on Old Bennington Road, $4,860 for glass removal at the recycling center, and $81,780 to support the Stephenson Memorial Library.

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