"I'm surprised everyone in town isn't armed at this point." - Mayor McDaniel speaking to what detectives are busy with -- pistol permits.
Besides resident Wills Pike’s comments that the Finance Committee should be sure to “ask all the tough questions,” and offered, by way of example, a suggestion as to whether or not Montville Police actually need uniforms and guns, a comment Town Planner Marcai Vlaun called ‘bizarre,’ the Tuesday budget meeting was not unlike meetings before and those to come.
With a few notable exceptions: pistol permit requests by residents are up “2,000 percent,” some police officers uniform pants are rife with holes, and state police only come to the aid of local police “…when the press comes in.”
The committee had plenty of specific questions for department heads that made the meeting and ultimately, approved without much fanfare the budgets for public works, $2,203,057 the recommendations of Mayor Ronald K. McDaniel Jr.
Town Clerk Lisa J. Terry made her case for the requested level funding. She and others said there was a concern that the Finance Committee was looking to cut her assistant’s hours and thereby forcing the office to close at times. The committee said it asked every department if positions could be cut, if people could be laid off, she wasn’t singled out. The committee made no move to cut hours. Terry said her department is “one of the only ones that brings in more than she spends.”
The clerk’s office records, indexes and maintains all town records including all land records and vital statistics. The office also handles elections, licenses and permits and is a notary service. The committee praised Terry and voted to level fund, save for $3,000 offered by Terry as an olive branch (for map scanning), the department at $141,812.
And the committee formally approved in a 2-1 vote the Board of Education budget, recommended by McDaniel and
The police budget, slated to be examined, was not such a process; Lt. Leonard Bunnell did not make the meeting, though 23-year police department veteran and police officer’s union president Robin Salvatore was in attendance and she did answer some questions posed by the committee, admitting at one point that while she was not prepared and was speaking off the cuff, one way to cut costs would be to cut back on overtime.
That suggestion surprised Town Councilor and Finance committeewoman Rosetta Jones who saluted Salvatore.
“It’s commendable to hear a union president make a recommendation on overtime,” Jones said.
A comment by Salvatore that some officers are wearing uniform pants with holes in them raised eyebrows. A police budget line item calls for $16,000 for uniforms, though there are talks in the works, Salvatore and McDaniel said, for new uniforms that are more “user friendly,” (“officers can’t run in the pants we have now.”) and can be washed as opposed to being dry-cleaned among other considerations.
And even more eye-opening was the revelation that, in part, the reason there’s so much police overtime – at around $270,000 -- is that officers find themselves doing investigations after routine shifts at overtime rates because the two department detectives are often tied up dealing with pistol permits.
“(Pistol permit requests) are up 2,000 percent,” Salvatore said.
McDaniel concurred: “I’m surprised everyone in town isn’t armed at this point.”
Montville police detectives have the responsibility to process gun permits which includes copious background checks and plenty of legwork.
Not there when you need them
Another reason overtime is high, Salvatore and McDaniel agreed, is that local police cannot rely on State Police for assistance with calls “unless the press is here.”
“The Troop (E) is not covering our calls when we’re tied up,” Salvatore said.
McDaniel went further: “They come when the press comes.”
McDaniel said the police department and issues related to public safety take up the bulk of his time and are his “biggest headache.”
The $1.9 million police budget was accepted with an increase in the allocation for weapon replacements – Salvatore said it has been at least a decade since the department had new weapons – and a decrease in the allocation for equipment.
The Town Council has a week until it must okay the proposed $55.7 million 2012-2013 spending plan.