By Beth David, Editor
The Acushnet Selectboard voted to support the budget proposed by Police Chief Michael Alves at its meeting on Tuesday, 4/18. The budget includes money for two new full time patrol officers and three vehicles for the department.
Chief Alves told the board that he wanted to offer a full time position immediately to Andrew Cordeiro, who is a part-time officer in town. Mr. Cordeiro completed the Worcester full-time Police Academy after returning from Guantanamo Bay Cuba with the National Guard.
Mr. Alves said there would be no academy costs associated with the hire, and noted that Mr. Cordeiro has been working full time hours anyway, due to staffing shortages.
Jason White is also in the National Guard and was deployed in Kosovo. He has completed the part-time police academy and is in the process of completing his road training.
Chief Alves asked to offer Mr. White a full time position, contingent on his successful completion of the full time academy and all other requirements.
The board voted to support both hires. Mr. White will, hopefully, get into the Plymouth Academcy which starts on June 5, for the six-month program.
The chief’s budget also includes money for three vehicles: Two cruisers and one unmarked car.
The department generally replaces two cruisers each year and an unmarked vehicle every four years. The board discussed the various ways to fund the vehicles, including whether or not they should be in separate town meeting articles instead of part of the regular budget.
Chief Alves said that it all goes back to “when I was a wee little chief,” and cruisers would be out of the budget, only to be included in a special TM in the fall.
Selectboard Chairperson Kevin Gaspar said he thought the two annual cruisers should be in the budget, but the unmarked car every four years should be an article.
Town Administrator Brian Noble said it did not matter how the vehicles were included as long as funding was identified. He said a letter of explanation with town meeting documents, would be sufficient to explain why the police budget had a spike this year.
“As long as you’re up front about what’s being voted on,” said Mr. Noble.
The board also discussed the size of the fleet. Chief Alves said he had six marked cruisters, four unmarked cruisers, four all-terrain vehicles, one motorcycle and four pedal bicycles.
He said he would love to have at least one more cruiser. They ran into some trouble when one cruiser lost and engine and another collided with a deer two years ago.
“We had a rough year,” said Chief Alves.
Mr. Alves said that one of unmarked cars is not used for responding to calls, it is a “junk,” he said, used for undercover operations.
He also told the board it is unlikely the town will have the bicycle patrols it had in past years. He said those were funded with grant money, which he no longer has, and he is trying to keep overtime to a minimum.
The chief and the board agreed that he would try to keep the next car scheduled for trade-in if it is “not horrible.”
But he cautioned, that by the time he trades in a cruiser, it is in pretty bad shape.
The board also discussed some town meeting articles, including the regionalization study and Perry Hill Church. The board is going to request that the Historical Commission give them some idea of when the money pit would end on Perry Hill Road.
Mr. Gaspar railed against the practice of saying a project would cost one amount and then petitioners going back to town meeting year after year for more money.
“It’s $225,000 already,” said Mr. Gaspar. “It’s exceeded my expectations.”
The Article asks for $20,000.
Mr. Noble noted that the church is the highest point in town. It might be possible to get a cellular phone carrier to put a tower on it, producing a revenue stream for the town.
The board also approved a 1.5% increase for employees with individual contracts, with some discussion about the Executive Administrative Assistant, Lisa Leonard. Mr. Noble recommended 2% for Ms. Leonard.
Apparently, she was promised a bonus for taking on a lot of extra work during the time that the town did not have a full time Town Administrator. However, it is illegal to give bonuses to public employees, said Mr. Noble. They can get stipends for extra work, but that was not done at the time.
Mr. Noble said the whole raise only comes to $300 a year and that he felt Ms. Leonard deserved it.
Selectboard member Michael Cioper said he felt it was not fair to other town employees.
Mr. Noble said it was clear to everyone who carried the burden when there was no TA.
It was unclear who promised the bonus, but all three Selectboard members and Mr. Noble said they had no doubt the money was promised. The TA and the Accounting Department lost employees at the same time.
Selectboard member Roger Cabral said he was comfortable with the raise for a good long-term employee. He said he wanted to keep her happy and that the town should give what was promised.
“She really carried a lot of weight,” said Mr. Gaspar.
“I’ve got to solve a problem and fix what was promised,” said Mr. Noble. “I never got in trouble for paying a good employee good money. I always got in trouble paying good money to a bad employee.
The board approved the increases, with Mr. Cioper voting “no” on Ms. Leonard’s.
The board also briefly discussed the TM article seeking $20,000 for the towns of Acushnet and Fairhaven to study the possibility of regionalizing some or all aspects of the school systems.
Mr. Noble said that people should not overreact and think that anything has happened yet. The article is simply to fund half the study. Fairhaven has a similar article on its warrant.
“Studying isn’t doing,” said Mr. Noble.
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