Saturday, April 29, 2017

Of interest for Town meeting - Town Operating "budget" article 18
Transfer from ambulance receipts fund to support the general government operations, the amount of $225,000.00. Per DOR meeting on 4/25/2017, "Must be able to show funds transferred were on hand at time of vote. Must supplement in the fall (Fall Town Meeting) failing that, cut the budget."

There will be a shortfall of 100 thousand dollars in the operating budget that will have to be taken care of in the fall and if the transfer is not approved, the budget will have to be cut by 100 thousand dollars. A wonderful thought and plan! I believe we should start at Town Meeting and remove the expense of two full time fire fighters/Para medics, which we clearly cannot afford at this time, those positions are listed on page 121a under fire & EMS

Fund                         1000
Account Number     220   5100
Account name          Personnel

FY 2018 administrator recommend $88,400.00 for two (2) fire fighter/EMT-P

page 121c lists fire fighter/EMT-P as full time   48 hours at $22.00 per hour for total at $54,912.00

page 121 c lists fire fighter/EMT-P as full time   48 hours at $22.00 per hour for total at $54,912.00

both of those lines have ** next to them with an explanation below at; both above for 52 weeks.

**  original budget was 42.5 hours
one of the above positions has * next to hourly rate and below it has;

* EMTB RIG employee at 90%

There are two fire fighter?EMT-P listed as full time for 48 hours ** for 13 weeks.
each one of those two has salary listed $13,728.00.

I was unaware Templeton had moved to a full time fire department, I was under the impression we have a volunteer on call department. Perhaps this impression is wrong.

posted by Jeff Bennett
The entire article as printed

from the Telegram & Gazette
by Brian Lee
Communities weigh pros & cons of regional dispatch centers

The state continues to encourage cities and towns to study formation of regional emergency dispatch centers, which are often viewed as a means to improve 911 services and save cities and towns money. But one town in the region recently nixed the idea. Regionalization at times comes at the hefty expense of individual police departments closing at the end of the business day, which has spurred the law enforcement term “going dark.” Spencer had been part of a proposed five-town Central Regional Emergency Communication Center to be housed in Oxford. Charlton, Southbridge and Sturbridge also were part of the plan. But last week, the Spencer Board of Selectmen voted to withdraw from the study. Spencer Town Administrator Adam Gaudette said not wanting to close the police station, and consideration for the tasks dispatchers perform for the chief and department, weighed heavily on the board’s decision. Dispatchers man the police station, and the Spencer board noted that Spencer’s lockup serves as a regional facility for smaller, surrounding towns. The board didn’t want Spencer to give up that responsibility, the administrator said.

The Spencer board suggested that regional dispatch would amount to no savings realized if it had to hire administrative help to pick up the tasks dispatchers perform, Mr. Gaudette said. Southbridge Police Chief Shane D. Woodson said he remains supportive of the proposal, with the caveat that the Southbridge station remain open 24 hours, seven days a week. “I agree with it,” Chief Woodson said of regionalization. “I’ve spoken with my town manager. He has assured me that we will not be closing the police department at all. The only way I’d agree and support this project is if my doors stay open. It’s a disservice to the community (to lock the department’s doors for parts of the day) and the people that we police.” Chief Woodson said that he doesn’t want to insult departments that close their buildings. Doing so can work for small communities. He said with regional dispatch programs in Essex County and on the South Shore, for instance, some departments went dark and could so because they’re largely affluent communities with lower volumes of calls to police. Closing the department would not work in Southbridge because of the town’s demographics, he said. “People (in Southbridge) need the police more than in some of these other communities because of the city issues we have here, with poverty, unemployment and drug abuse,” he said. “Every child in our schools receives free lunch. We have a lot of serious issues in our community that need to be addressed, and they rely heavily on our police. That’s why we need to be open.” In 2012, when Southbridge considered joining regional dispatch with Dudley and Webster, Chief Woodson said, Southbridge conducted an 11-day study in which it found approximately 400 people walked in to the station requesting police services, while another approximately 450 people called the business line to request police services. Southbridge can also be busy housing prisoners, he said. During the 11 days of the study, 36 eight-hour shifts were reviewed. Prisoners were housed during 22 of the shifts, he said.

CTC Inc. Public Safety Technology Center of Westboro conducted the fivetown study, and projects that recurring cost savings would be $65,855 for Southbridge, while the annual non-recurring capital cost savings would be $188,399. But Chief Woodson suggested those savings projections won’t apply to Southbridge, because, if the proposal comes to fruition, he aims to hire additional administrative staff to ensure the department never closes. On the other hand, Chief Woodson said, he understands how regional dispatch can help. Technology upgrades, in particular, will be tremendous, he said. Presently, there is poor radio reception in some areas of Southbridge, but if the proposal goes through, the state will spend millions of dollars upgrading radio communication between all of the agencies. This increases officer safety, Chief Woodson said. The other benefit is having the dispatch center as a separate entity, with dispatchers focused solely on 911 calls, and a manager who is a trained professional in handling emergency medical calls on hand at all times, Chief Woodson said. Regional dispatch centers are cropping up throughout the region and state. Holden, West Boylston and Princeton are part of the recently opened Wachusett Regional Emergency Communication Center, with emergency calls going directly to Holden’s public safety building. The Regional Emergency Communication and Emergency Operations Center in Worcester recently opened. It serves various Worcester emergency operations and Leicester for public safety 911 dispatch services. The South Worcester County Communications Center in Webster began providing 911 call-taking and dispatch services to Webster and Dudley in November 2014. Leicester and Dudley are among police departments that “went dark” after joining regional dispatch. Leicester Police Chief James Hurley said it’s more accurate to describe it as restricted service.

Residents can still go to the Leicester station and make contact with a dispatcher outside the station lobby, through a call box. But Dudley Police Chief Steven J. Wojnar called it “a definite change of business operation,” and he noted that “a lot of members of the public aren’t really too thrilled with it, if they need to come through and get some business done.” Dudley employs interns from Nichols College to help with daily administrative tasks. “We don’t have enough funding to keep them there around the clock, so there are times when we don’t have anybody stationed at our desk to help out with public walk-ins and things,” Chief Wojnar said. “It’s not an ideal system, but we understand that that comes with the territory, when you have to do something like this. It takes away from customer service, that’s a definite.” He suggested that having an experienced dispatcher in the building provided the opportunity for the dispatcher to answer questions, provide information or maybe handle something a police officer wouldn’t necessarily have to handle. “Now if somebody comes in and no one is at the desk, or the person there doesn’t have the experience, they’ll have to call an officer from the street to deal with those situations,” the chief said. Dudley has an agreement with Webster in that Webster will hold Dudley prisoners who are locked up for an extended time. But if Webster’s lockup is full, or if Webster can’t hold someone from Dudley, Dudley is responsible for the prisoner’s well-being. At times, a Dudley prisoner has to be taken directly to Webster, especially if they’re causing problems or acting violent, Chief Wojnar said. As for the positives, Chief Wojnar said, “We certainly find it’s a good product as far as the quality of dispatch, and we get the benefit of equipment upgrades.” Leicester Town Administrator Kevin Mizikar said the town will be able to reallocate cost savings to hire two additional police officers in next year’s budget. Presently, Leicester has 18 sworn full-time officers, including its chief
Mr. Mizikar said there hasn’t been a decline in service since regional dispatch opened. “We’re still operating as we did, just from a different location.” He acknowledged that the drawback of regionalization is not always being able to employ someone who sits in the station to deal with a person face to face. Leicester has hired jail monitors to give the department the ability to house prisoners if they can’t be taken to an alternate location immediately. “That’s operating efficiently,” Mr. Mizikar said. “We are looking, in next year’s budget, to hire some part-time civilian staff that would be able to pick up some of the administrative functions that our dispatchers did, that are not being provided to the regional center.” Leicester and Worcester’s agreement is different than other communities’ in that Worcester is able to take over Leicester operations and utilize the state funding it received, Mr. Mizikar said. “We don’t have to make a direct payment to the city except for capital costs,” Mr. Mizikar said. “So although we have to hire additional civilians, we’re still able to hire two full-time sworn police officers with our savings. It enables us to provide better policing services that we wouldn’t have been able to if we didn’t transition to the regional center.” Charlton interim Police Chief Daniel R. Charette, whose department is also part of the five-town study, said he believes some police chiefs would want to implement regional dispatch. But, like Chief Woodson and the others, he suggested a civilian presence will be needed at police stations to give out information, forms, and take care of basic daily administrative duties. “I don’t think stations are going to go dark,” he said. “I do think that some stations may have different business hours, say they’re open until 7, 9, at night.” Also, he said that at least one of the stations would have to be used as a regional lockup because, without full-time dispatchers, departments can’t house prisoners.

He said the increased expectations of both officers and dispatchers in the last decade or two has to be recognized, and, “we should let dispatch break off and do their thing.” Ten area towns’ emergency calls are handled by dispatchers at the State Police Academy in New Braintree. State police spokesman David Procopio said in an email that several of the local police departments maintain some presence in their station lobby for the public, at least during the day shift and when staffing allows, while others do not. Residents of those towns who wish to physically go to a police station, for whatever reason, are welcome to go to any of the state police barracks, which have front desks staffed around the clock, he said. The closest barracks for residents of the area are in Brookfield, Belchertown, Sturbridge and Holden. In an emergency, people should call 911 on their home phones or cellphones to receive immediate service, Mr. Procopio said.

posted by Jeff Bennett

To Bob M.

The question of who is responsible for following Policies & Procedures, I would say that with regards to the selectmen, they are the first ones who are responsible for ensuring their policies are followed:
 page 1, Selectmen policies & procedures: Role of the selectmen - The board is responsible for policy development and review for compliance.

page 4, Selectmen policies & Procedures;
Agenda items normally include -
Reading of Agenda
public comment
town administrator report
topics not reasonably anticipated by the chair 48 hours in advance
Selectmen report/future agenda items

So Bob, when was the last time you saw public comment on an agenda for selectmen?

Seems  hard to expect others to follow written policies if the selectmen do not do it. The second ones who should be responsible for ensuring policies are followed are us, the people, which takes time and effort because you have to take the time to read them and attend the meetings. For instance, under selectmen policies & procedures.

As for your thought on how other committees might "use items such as toner, paper etc. from other departments or entities, well that is a good point which is why I brought another item to the board of selectmen when I served, that was central purchasing, which I thought would make for better tracking and accountability. All office supplies bought under one fund and used by all, with say a book that is filled out with who, what, when and how much, then say each month you look at what was used, how much and by who and if there is say quite a bit of paper used by one department, a discussion ensues and see if there is a way to cut back. I thought it was a no brainer and it would allow for better tracking of Town resources, but again, it was a hard sell. To micro managing, department heads shoulld be able to manage their departments, etc. Problem is, no one seems willing to tell department heads that these are not their departments, all departments and equipment, supplies and money belong to the Town, as in the people. Same with the school, I suggested that it is a Town project and should be managed by the Town rather than the school district and this project began I think in 2009, same time as the Town of Ashburnham began their school project, which is finished and open with students in it. A 32 million dollar school and a $400 thousand dollar feasibility cost while Templeton began with $550 thousand and a 32 million dollar project. Those numbers are off the top of my head by I believe pretty accurate. back to who should be overseeing the school, now in 2016 - 2017, we have perhaps one selectmen being vocal about these contracts belonging to the Town/selectmen.

The second item of policies are the more important ones, Town by-laws, which the selectmen for the second year have not followed, getting the warrant to the Advisory Committee by April 10. I was told in a face to face meeting with the Town Administrator that this would not happen this year for a few reasons. So much for all the policies. The one thing that may help would be if all of the people who attend selectmen meetings stand up and ask why, not just the same people or one or two, but all people in attendance.

posted by Jeff Bennett