By THOMAS P. CALDWELL
LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD — When selectmen agreed to add money for two new officers to the 2018 Gilford Police Department budget, they planned to help cover the increased cost by reducing the amount spent for overtime. Chief Anthony Bean Burpee told them on Jan. 10 that doing so was “setting me up for failure.”
The discussion arose as selectmen reviewed the Gilford Budget Committee’s recommendations. That panel had added back the money that selectmen had removed from the overtime account.
Bean Burpee said that, during budget discussions, he had explained that, by the time the department went through the hiring process and the new officers were named, they likely would have to go through the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Academy for certification, so “I won’t have those two bodies in rotation until 2019.”
That means that covering all of the patrol shifts in 2018 would entail overtime, he said.
Town Administrator Scott Dunn said that, historically, they have budgeted overtime at 10.5 percent of police wages, which works out to be $102,000 and is close to the amount actually spent.
Selectmen had reduced the overtime amount to $45,000, and Bean Burpee said, “I cannot make that work.”
Last year, he said, he was three officers short of being able to fill the shifts due to people being out, and he overran the overtime budget.
Selectman Richard Grenier agreed that “We can’t predict what will happen,” but he was reluctant to change the agreement the selectmen thought the chief had accepted. Grenier suggested splitting the difference as a compromise.
Selectman Gus Benavides took offense at the chief’s characterization of the reduction. “We’re hiring two more officers. That gives you 20 officers. We’re not setting you up for failure.”
“I didn’t mean the selectmen are setting me up for failure, but this budget number is setting me up for failure,” Bean Burpee responded.
Dunn reminded the selectmen that the budget that goes before voters is the one that the budget committee recommends, so whatever amount they choose to support is moot and serves only to show their position.
With that in mind, the selectmen amended their overtime figure to $102,000, the same number the budget committee had chosen.