CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The Select Board is weighing whether to recommend a Police Department budget that would include a second full-time officer.
Police Chief Michael Williams presented his case to add the post at Wednesday's meeting, citing the need for more stable coverage, to address an increase in certain types of calls and to have a consistent backup for investigative and administrative services.
"I believe this would expand department services," Williams explained to board members Chairman Ronald Boucher and Karin Robert. "The benefit is we would increase the hours of that shift so instead of having an officer on four hours, they would be on for eight hours."
The department has between four and six part-timers, and currently, there are four part-time officers. Shifts are 12 hours and split between patrol and on-call hours.
Williams is on from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays with four hours each day considered "on call." Part-time officers pick up the overnight from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. but only four of those hours are on patrol and eight hours are on call. They are paid for patrol time and any calls made during their on-call hours. The weekend split is slightly different.
When Williams joined the force in 1985 it was made up solely of part-timers, seven in all. But as societal changes began to manifest in more criminal and nuisance calls, a full-time police chief was installed in the late 1990s. This also provided for more administrative and court services.
"The job of the Police Department was traffic enforcement. The department didn't receive a lot of other calls besides that," said the chief of when he joined. "Through the years the calls were increased due to the demographics and different laws. Domestic violence became a criminal charge, which became more calls. The residential changes ... we were getting new residents coming in, we were getting calls for property line disputes and other things with new neighbors. ...
"Then you have the societal changes in the town and the surrounding area, the increases in drugs and stuff like that, which created more calls."
Robert questioned the need for a full-time post when many businesses are moving to part-time personnel to save on benefits and to have more flexibility.
"For those extra four hours of that evening shift, that's what I need to see," she said. "Are there enough calls in that four hours where they're not out that can justify paying a full-time person and giving them benefits."
Williams didn't have a breakdown of night calls but said yearly numbers fluctuated during the period from 2010 to 2017. The initiated calls -- either to the office, 911 or vehicle stop -- were more than 600 annually in 2010 and 2017, although 2015 dropped to 303.
The town is also covered by Massachusetts State Police and Williams said he had asked the agency for the number of calls to which state police had responded. North Adams provides backup through mutual aid on request.
Williams said part-time turnover had been an issue as officers must invest more training so tend to seek full-time posts in neighboring communities. Plus most no longer work a regular weekday job.
"A lot of people who want to be police officers are working in emergency service fields," he said. "They are working as dispatchers or EMTs or whatever. They're working rotating shifts. ... Sometimes I can't get somebody to work a shift."
Robert asked if would be better to hire part-timers at 24 hours or 32 hours. Williams and Town Administrator Carl McKinney said they would have to pay full benefits at 20 hours, so it might as well be a full-time person.
A full-time officer would reduce the dependency on part-timers and if paid comparable to other departments, he or she would not be as likely to leave, Williams said.
The chief said he also ends up doing all the investigations because of the difficulty in training and keeping informed a rotating force of officers who only patrol four hours a night. A full-time officer, he said, could help in picking up investigations, assist in training, be of immediate aid during major incidents and their aftermath, and take on some administrative work like doing the license to carry or firearms identification cards.
"It can help me offset some stuff and give me a little bit of time to get out of the office," he said.
Williams also submitted a budget with the full-time post added in and a 6 percent salary increase for his upcoming contract as a starting point for negotiations.
The board postponed more discussion on the position until it received more data.
In other business:
• Finance Committee member Mark Denault brought up a bylaw pointed out to the committee by the town clerk that states the budget is presented to the Finance Committee dating from 1972. That has not been the case in many years, he noted, and asked if the board would want the Finance Committee to continue developing the budget.
• The board voted to charge the Finance Committee to continue its work and to present an amended bylaw to town meeting. Town Moderator Bryan Tanner, who was in attendance, suggested the board review the entire bylaw to see if further changes might be needed.
• The board approved Verizon's request to shift the location of its planned cell tower by about 10 feet. Boucher had asked to postpone the issue at the last meeting in an effort to have the landowner appear. He did not.
• The board appointed Jeanne Moulthrop to the Historical Commission.
• A bid of $14,377.34 for changing out Town Hall's lighting to LED was awarded to Electrical and Lighting Resources Inc. of North Adams. McKinney said the replacements should reduce the building's energy use by 8,000 kWh. That would leave about $40,000 from the Green Communities grant for insulation; McKinney said he would develop that invitation to bid.
• The board entered into executive session to discuss a matter of real estate and a personnel issue.
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With Heating Set, Clarksburg School Turns to Security Upgrade
By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Clarksburg School expects to have plans in hand for a new security entrance in two weeks.
Principal Tara Barnes reported that Westall Architects is nearly completed with designs that will allow the project to be put to out to bid.
"They've been working on plans for a while, and they should have something else back Oct. 14," she told the School Committee and members of the renovation group on Thursday. "They've been working with some engineers and drawing the design in touch with folks who do the glass."
The school received a $35,000 state grant to address security concerns. Barnes said she had not detailed the need for a public address system but felt that also falls under security.
The Select Board interviewed finalists Lisa Blackmer, treasurer/tax collector in the town of Buckland, and Rebecca Stone, town administrator in Otis, and plan to pick one of the two Wednesday to replace former Town Administrator Carl McKinney who resigned in May.
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