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Overtime funds OK'd for police
Among other transfers was $125,000 for outside lawyers who handle high-profile cases and appeals.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
By DAVID REID
[email protected]

HOLYOKE - The City Council this week approved more than $900,000 in spending from free cash reserves to pay for a variety of departmental needs, including $503,651 in year-end requests for the police department.

Councilors also voted 14-1 to support Mayor Michael J. Sullivan's proposed spending of $1.54 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funds on numerous citywide projects and programs to aid moderate- and low-income residents.

The council voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to transfer $226,169 from free cash to fully fund the regular police overtime account, which had nearly run out, according to Police Chief Anthony R. Scott.

Councilors also approved requests for $63,233 in overtime for court appearances by officers and $180,000 to buy and equip five new cruisers and a pick-up truck.

On Monday, Scott told the council's Finance Committee that several positions were vacant due to injuries or call-ups to military service, but that he was maintaining patrol-force strength through overtime spending.

He had also cited numerous special investigations and crime sweeps, as well as special events like the St. Patrick's Parade and festivals coming up this spring.

During floor debate Tuesday, At-large Councilor John E. Whelihan said the chief's actions had made the streets safer. "And we have to pay for that," he said.

But At-large Councilor James A. McDermott, who was absent Monday, was critical of Scott's budget management and of the high cost of overtime, gasoline and maintenance requests.

At-large Councilor Peter R. Tallman said he had asked Scott some of the same questions the night before.

"He runs the department, but we have to watch where the money (goes)," Tallman said.

At-large Councilor Kevin A. Jourdain applauded Scott and Sullivan for pledging to fill all vacant patrol force spots, which he called "a notable change."

Other transfers approved from free cash Tuesday included:

$138,000 to pay for a new refuse truck for the Department of Public Works.

$125,000 to pay for accumulated and anticipated legal bills from outside lawyers handling high-profile cases for the city. They include police Sgt. Robert Wagner's appeal of his federal whistle-blower lawsuit, and the city's appeal of a Land Court decision allowing expansion of Castle Hill Apartments.

$8,600 to buy a new global positioning system device for the Planning Office that would help to prepare digital maps of city properties, streets and parks.

$72,000 to help pay for city property and liability insurance.

$49,700 to complete engineering for the first phase of the CanalWalk project.

$30,000 to pay interest on short-term debt to replace two school roofs.
 
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