Voters add more money for police & firefighters at Sanbornton Town Meeting

SANBORNTON — After considerable discussion, voters chose to add a total of $33,650 to the Budget Committee's recommended 2013-2014 operating budget of $3,776,638 at Annual Town Meeting last night.
The increases adds $19,879 to the Police Department for raises for patrolmen, $10,925 to the Fire Department for two additional per diem firefighters to be on duty during the week, $1,500 to the Highway Department for renting a vibrator roller and $1,344 to the library for fixed operating costs.
The increases raise the total operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 to $3,810,286.
About 150 people — approximately 7 percent of those eligible to participate — were at the meeting and the only vote regarding the operating budget that was close was about the vibrator-roller rental, which passed by a vote of 83 to 64. The reason for the rental, said selectmen, was because the old one keeps breaking and parts are becoming more and more expensive and hard to get.
Selectboard Chair Dave Nickerson said the rental would give the selectmen a year to decide whether to continue to rent a vibrator-roller, buy a new one or subcontract the work to an outside agency.
The police asked for between 4 and 12 percent raises to stop the migration of police officers from Sanbornton to other communities who can pay them more money.
By means of example, Sgt. Justin Howe, who is also a town resident, said over the past 14 years, Sanbornton has paid about $250,000 to train new officers. He said each officer now requires $35,000 each in training and can't become completely effective for six months to a year.
The request for raises beyond the across the board 2 1/2 percent was triggered by the recent departure of one of the department's senior patrol officers and lead investigator who took a job in Hooksett that will pay him $10,000 more after he completes his in-house training.
The issue, said Chief Stephen Hankard is that all police officers in New Hampshire require the same training but once they get a few years of experience, they become targeted by bigger towns that can pay them considerably more money.
He said the pay increases will not bring Sanbornton to the same pay scale as other communities in the area but will make it more competitive.
"If we can get close they won't jump for the money," Hankard said.
Fire Chief Paul Dexter said his goal was to add two additional per diem officers so there are three people, including himself, who are in the fire station four days a week. He said this gives him more than two people to respond to an incident and frees him to be the incident commander.
He said the department and the town have done a great job of building up the equipment used by the firefighters and EMTs and now is the time to invest in manpower.
As always, the library is a bone of contention between some members of the Budget Committee and the Board of Library Trustees. Speaking for some member of the BudCom was Chair Earl Leighton, who said the $1,344 was eliminated from the budget request because either the line items were underspent, overspent or the money was spent on non-budgeted items like a refrigerator and and air conditioner.
Leighton also said the library pay overtime rates to people who work more than 10 hours — a statement that Director Cab Vinton said was not true.
What makes the library different from the rest of the town departments is that once the money is appropriated by Town Meeting, the library trustees take over the budget administration; selectmen cannot take money from the library and spend it in other department without permission of the library trustees.
He also said that, by law, the library cannot over spend its budget, unlike other departments in town that can ask selectmen for transfer money from another department to overcome a shortage or an emergency.

CUTLINE: Retired Deputy Fire Chief Steve Surowiec hugs current Fire Chief Paul Dexter after officials recognized him for 33 years of service to the Sanbornton Fire Department.