Wilton voters add $30K to town budget for police force

  • In an outdoor Town Meeting on Thursday night in front of the Florence Rideout Elementary School, Wilton voters approved the entirety of the warrant, including an extra $30,000 for the police force and multiple vehicles for town departments. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • In an outdoor Town Meeting on Thursday night in front of the Florence Rideout Elementary School, Wilton voters approved the entirety of the warrant, including an extra $30,000 for the police force and multiple vehicles for town departments. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Voters cast ballots at Wilton’s outdoor Town Meeting on Thursday night. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • In an outdoor Town Meeting on Thursday night in front of the Florence Rideout Elementary School, Wilton voters approved the entirety of the warrant, including an extra $30,000 for the police force and multiple vehicles for town departments. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • In an outdoor Town Meeting on Thursday night in front of the Florence Rideout Elementary School, Wilton voters approved the entirety of the warrant, including an extra $30,000 for the police force and multiple vehicles for town departments. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • In an outdoor Town Meeting on Thursday night in front of the Florence Rideout Elementary School, Wilton voters approved the entirety of the warrant, including an extra $30,000 for the police force and multiple vehicles for town departments. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/11/2021 11:31:08 AM

Wilton voters raised the proposed budget by $30,000 for increased police salaries to attract and retain police officers during Town Meeting on Thursday

Wilton voters met outside on Thursday evening in front of Florence Rideout Elementary School, to complete the in-person Town Meeting, which was set at a later date than usual due to COVID-19 considerations. 

The first matter of business for the town was the budget, set this year at $5,259,397. However, after an introduction to the proposed budget, Police Chief Eric Olesen proposed a $30,000 addition, to be used for police salaries. He said police departments across the state are in a “critical situation” in trying to hire and retain officers.

The $30,000 would be used to improve the current pay for officers, as well as to try to attract an already certified officer to the force, Olesen explained. He said if current staffing levels continue, the town would struggle to maintain 24/7 coverage or would have to drastically increase overtime hours to do so.

Voters agreed to the amendment and then passed the budget.

In other police department-related articles, voters also agreed to purchase a new police cruiser, for a total of $45,000, with $25,000 coming from the police cruiser reserve, and $20,000 from taxes, and to complete the lease-purchase of an existing cruiser, and pay the final $8,942 for the four-year lease. Voters also agreed to create a police special detail revolving fund. Police are paid for special details, such as directing traffic for pole or line work, by the companies doing the work. In the future, those funds would be set aside to accumulate year-to-year, and then could be used by police for equipment purchases.

Voters also gave approval, in secret ballot votes, for the purchase of three Fire Department vehicles, as well as several other articles for the Fire Department.

The Fire Department requested a $650,000 fire engine through a 10-year lease-to-purchase, a $100,000 forestry truck, and a $55,000 command truck for the fire chief. The forestry truck and command vehicle would use capital reserve funds already raised.

Selectwoman Kellie-Sue Boissonnault told the crowd that she had voted in favor of recommending the engine purchase, but not the two other vehicles, in a minority vote. She said she did not want to drain the fire department equipment capital reserve so drastically, and when asked to prioritize, the engine was the top priority.

Fire Chief Don Nourse told assembled voters that the entire fleet of trucks is aging, and costly to maintain. The Fire Department over-extended its repair budget by $28,000 last year, Nourse said.

“This is the first step in upgrading our fleet so it's safer for us, and more reliable,” Nourse said.

Voters agreed to all three vehicles in a 93-9 vote for the fire engine, 77-22 for the forestry truck, and 64-35 for the fire chief command vehicle.

Voters also agreed to several other department requests, including funding $50,000 for the department to continue to repair out-of-service dry hydrants and fire ponds. Voters also approved $50,000 last year, which completed work on seven hydrants. There are still eight outstanding repairs needed to be addressed.

Voters also agreed to create a capital reserve account, and seed it with $15,000, for the eventual replacement of the department’s air packs.

Other departments also got approval to continue lease payments on, or to purchase new vehicles for their departments. Voters agreed to a $29,000 lease payment for the highway department’s 2019 International 10-wheel dump truck, and $15,000 to purchase a used pick-up truck for use in the town’s cemeteries.

Town Clerk/Tax Collector Jane Farrell had her annual stipend increased by a total of $1,375, as well as additional funds to cover increases in insurance and insurance and retirement. This increases her total stipend to $70,142, equivalent to a 2 percent increase.

The ambulance will be getting new equipment after voters approved a $4,000 to purchase a RAD 57 Unit, which detects carbon monoxide in a patient. The funds for the device will come from the Florence M. Wheeler Fund, not from taxation.

In the only other amendment made at Town Meeting, voters put off the construction of the Old County Farm Road Bridge over Mill Brook. Initially, the town was proposing $225,000 for the final design and construction or rehabilitation of the bridge. However, Selectman Kermit Williams proposed the town simply put $70,389 – which is the balance of the 2017 Highway Block Grant – into the bridge capital reserve. Part of the reason for that, he said, was to attempt to conserve the historic stone arch of the bridge. The town has yet to find a contractor willing or able to restore the bridge while keeping the arch intact.

Fred Roedel, whose property abuts the bridge, said he was personally invested in preserving the arch bridge.

“It’s really special and certainly something we want to keep,” Roedel said. “I’m going to work with the selectmen and town to make sure we do the best we can for that bridge.”

Voters also approved several additions to capital reserve accounts, including $50,000 for the Town Hall heating system, $70,000 for the highway vehicle and equipment capital reserve, and $75,000 for the public works garage capital reserve.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’ on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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