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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Brimfield chief wants force doubled

Police staffing 'is not … sufficient'


By James F. Russell Correspondent

BRIMFIELD- Police Chief Charles T. Kuss says the size of Brimfield's tiny police force should at least be doubled.

"I have some appointments for you on Aug. 8," he told selectmen at last night's meeting.

"I am looking to hire three to five sworn officers and two to three auxilliary officers" provided selectmen approve the recommendations next month, Chief Kuss said during an interview after the meeting. Brimfield's all part-time force consists of the chief, a lieutenant, and three police officers; there are no auxilliary officers.

Explaining why more police were not hired sooner, Chief Kuss said: "We have come to realize through trial and error the minimal staffing we have is not quite sufficient."

On July 3, 2003, selectmen - on the advice of the town counsel Kopelman & Paige - told the 16 policemen and auxilliary officers then staffing the department to turn in their badges, guns and radios. When Chief Kuss was hired in August 2003, the department consisted of one auxilliary officer.

Selectmen put an end to 135 days of not having any patrolmen when, in November 2003, they appointed five of nine policemen recommended by Chief Kuss. Two of the five are no longer with the force.

Chief Kuss says a full-time police department would be optimal, given that "We have needs consistent with a town of 3,600 people," but he added, "it is my duty to fill the ranks as completely as I can with the best (part-time) officers I can."

There would be no impact on the police budget by adding police officers, he said.

"The budget remains the same, forecasted patrols of 64 hours a week stays the same," Chief Kuss said.

The former officers voted to unionize in April 2003. The next month, selectmen refused to recognize the union. The former officers then filed charges against the town with the state labor board. In March, the labor board oversaw a settlement granting the former officers almost $30,000 in back wages.

In other business yesterday, selectmen unanimously approved a request from the promoters of the Brimstock Music & Arts Festival 2005 to push the two-day event back to Sept. 24 and 25. The event, which is to feature 40 local bands, was scheduled for Aug. 6 and 7.

According to Diane M. Panaccione, chairman of selectmen, promoters of the rock festival needed additional time to better plan the event.

In another matter, the board approved a salary bonus for town employees.

The bonuses will be paid to about 85 percent of town employees, Finance Committee Chairman Norman B. Silberman told selectmen.

During the meeting, Mr. Silberman and Town Treasurer Kirsten Weldon told the board that $17,000 voted at the annual town meeting in May to pay bonuses was $5,000 to $6,000 less than what was needed.

The Finance Committee meets Thursday and is expected to approve the shortfall from the town's reserve fund, Mr. Silberman said. He said there is currently $30,000 in the fund, which he said is for "emergency and unforeseen expenses."

The state "Department of Revenue and town counsel said we (the Finance Committee) are in our legitimate right" to use money in the reserve fund to pay the bonuses, Mr. Silberman said before the meeting.

"Some taxpayers may say we are spending all this money, but for 20 years we have neglected" town employees, Selectman Robert C. Cheney said during the meeting.

The bonuses are for town employees who have worked for at least five years in one job, Mr. Silberman said.

64 hours per week? WTF?!?! :shock:
 
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