Present: Ketcham, Pemberton, Takacs
Also present: 22 members of the public and a representative of the Redding Pilot.
First Selectman Ketcham called the May 14, 2013 meeting to order at 7:30 pm.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Motion: move to approve the minutes of the April 8, 2013 meeting as submitted. Pemberton, Takacs. Approved. Unanimous.
Motion: move to approve the minutes of the May 7, 2013 meeting as submitted. Takacs, Pemberton. Approved. Unanimous.
UMPAWAUG ROAD FOREST REGENERATION PLAN
Leendert DeJong, Manager-Aquarion Watershed and Environmental Management began the presentation with an overview of the project and then introduced Jerry Milne of DEEP and Gary Haines of Aquarion Water for further information. Mr. DeJong stated that the White Pine forest on Umpawaug Road was severely damaged during last fall’s Superstorm Sandy and the plan is to change the area from a White Pine forest to a hardwood forest area. The downed and damaged trees will be removed from the site and the two acre site will be treated for invasive plantings. Smaller trees will remain on the site and allowed to reforest the area. The work is expected to begin shortly and is expected to take three days. The trees will be stockpiled on the site for later removal. The presentation was followed by a few questions.
DISCUSSION AND ACTION ON POLICE COMMISSION ORDINANCE
A Town Meeting on the establishment of a Police Commission is scheduled for May 20, 2013 and the vote on the issue is scheduled for a machine referendum on June 3, 2013. The purpose of accepting the Ordinance at tonight’s meeting is to provide residents/voters with information on what is being voted on. Copies of the Ordinance were distributed to those present and will be posted on the Town’s website. The meeting was opened to comments from those in attendance.
Gene Connolly, Meeker Hill Road: Mr. Connolly asked what resident proposed the Police Commission and he asked to see a copy of the petition and list of residents who signed the petition.
Alex Gray, Limekiln Road: Mr. Gray questioned why the term limits of the members of the Police Commission were not included. Mrs. Ketcham noted that the terms are prescribed by state statute. Michele Grande, Redding’s Town Clerk, stated that she believes term limits could be incorporated in the By-Laws that would be established by the Police Commission and is checking further on that information.
Frank DeSalvo, Mountain Road: Mr. DeSalvo questioned the terms stated in the ordinance. Mrs. Ketcham stated that the terms are prescribed by state statute.
Dan Heller, Sport Hill Road: Mr. Heller questioned which rights and duties would pass from the present police chief to the Police Commission. Mrs. Ketcham responded that the Police Commission would take over complete maintenance of the police department, including management of the department, hiring, firing, contract negotiations, and adoption of regulations. Currently that responsibility resides with the Board of Selectmen under state statute.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Selectmen adopt the Police Commission Ordinance to present and move forward to the Town Meeting on May 20, 2013. Pemberton, Takacs. Approved. Unanimous.
The Board of Selectmen opened the meeting to discussion of the establishment of a Police Commission.
Per the request of Mr. Connolly, Mrs. Ketcham provided a copy of the petition and list of signatures on the petition. She called on Scot Sanford, who initially presented the petition for a statement.
Scot Sanford: Mr. Sanford stated that he initiated a similar petition and request two years ago, but that effort was not completed. He began a petition recently and collected signatures from residents. He compared the establishment of a Police Commission to the oversight role in the Fire Departments of the Fire Commission.
Jere Ross, Pine Tree Road: Mr. Ross asked if Mr. Sanford collected all the signatures. Mr. Sanford confirmed that he did.
James Miller, Middlebrook Pond Road: Mr. Miller asked Mr. Sanford why this would be good. Mr. Sanford responded that this would give a group of people direct oversight of the Police Department.
Joe Paola: Mr. Paola commented that he worked on the petition two years ago and got signatures from a variety of people, fire personnel and non-fire personnel.
James Miller, Middlebrook Pond Road: Mr. Miller shared his perspective on the matter. He commented on the responsibilities and duties of the members of the town’s elected and appointed commission members. He noted that the boards and commission do not have direct oversight of employees. He added that a police commission is not mandated by state statute. From his perspective, Mr. Miller stated that members of a police commission would need experience in personnel management, working knowledge of labor law, union contracts, state and federal grant writing, and state laws governing their activities including police officers training and testing. They will also have budget responsibilities, and have 26 employees to manage. In addition, he believes there will be administrative costs associated with these activities and Mr. Miller does not believe the proposed change would mean a zero cost to the taxpayers.
Alex Gray, Limekiln Road: Mr. Gray stated that cost is only one of the issues. He stated that the police commission would oversee the third largest budget in the town, that he believes he and the taxpayers of Redding cannot afford a $2,000,000 police department budget. The police commission would be a five-member board to oversee the Police Department and such a board could have prevented the hiring of the two additional police officers. The police commission could put the brakes on the police department spending.
David Pattee, Pine Mountain Road: Mr. Pattee commented that the Police Department represents 4% of the budget and compared that to his fire district bill of 6%. He expects that if the fire department went from a volunteer department to hired personnel the cost would double or triple.
Joan DeSalvo, Mountain Road: Mrs. DeSalvo questioned how many Connecticut towns had a police commission. Mrs. Ketcham noted that the concept was most common in Fairfield County. Someone in the audience noted that 47 towns of the 114 towns, with independent police departments, have a police commission board.
Mr. Takacs commented that the move would add another layer of management, and he questioned the tenure of the commissioners compared with the tenure of the board of selectmen members (2-year terms).
Scot Sanford: Mr. Sanford will request that Easton’s Police Chief Candee be at the meeting on May 20, 2013 to comment on Easton’s experience with a police commission. Mrs. Pemberton commented that Easton may not be the best comparable town as the first selectmen is not a full time employee.
Gene Connolly, Meeker Hill: Mr. Connolly commented that the impetus seems to be on money, but does not believe this is the way to solve the problem. He noted that the recent budget, that included the additional two police officers, was approved by the voters.
Jere Ross, Pine Tree Road: Mr. Ross stated that the town does not need another layer of bureaucracy and to create a new organization that is not accountable, expect on a 4-year basis, is not what the town needs at this time.
Mrs. Ketcham asked the members of the board of selectmen for their opinions on the matter.
Mr. Takacs stated that he opposes the concept of a police commission, stating that the oversight by the Board of Selectmen is working well with a system in place. The costs to operate the police department have been stable since the change from the Resident State Trooper system.
Mrs. Pemberton stated that she agreed with Mr. Takacs, that she is not in favor of enlarging government. She believes the Board of Selectmen serves the same role of the police commission, and if they are not doing their job, they can be thrown out at the next election.
Mrs. Ketcham commented that she too is opposed to the concept. The members of the board of selectmen have two-year terms, the current system is working, and she is opposed to increasing layers of governments rarely cost effective or efficient. She sees no compelling reason to change and does not believe the change would be in the Town’s best interests.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Selectmen is in opposition to the establishment of a police commission. Pemberton, Takacs. Approved. Unanimous.
The Town Meeting on May 20, 2013 will include discussion of the petition. Mr. Sanford, the initiator of the petition, will make a presentation. The moderator of the meeting will open the meeting to discussion, questions, and express their point of view on the establishment of a police commission board. No vote will be taken at that time. The vote on the matter is scheduled for a machine vote on June 3, 2013.
1. Resolution for Connecticut State Library Grant: Town Clerk Michele Grande will apply for the historic restoration grant for $4,000. The grant funds will be used to back scan land records.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Selectmen approve the Resolution for the CT State Library Grant for Historic Document Preservation as proposed. Takacs, Pemberton. Approved. Unanimous.
2. On-line petitions received April 18, 2013: Mr. Alex Gray delivered “on line” petitions he solicited from residents. The petitions were to fund the School Resource Officer positions from existing personnel. Since the budget for 2013-14 was approved, the issue is a moot point. Mrs. Ketcham noted that the use of existing personnel to fill the need would have cost the Town more in overtime than the addition of the two officers.
3. Resignation of Deer Wardens: the Deer Warden and his three deputies (Don Haim, Chas Catania, Mark Schroeder and Ralph Mancini) resigned effective April 25, 2013 in an email to the First Selectman and Conservation Commission. David Pattee, Conservation Commission Chairman, reported the Commission is seeking replacements. The Conservation Commission would like to continue the bow hunting program on town-owned property.
4. Data collection for Town Meetings/machine vote guidelines. Mrs. Ketcham reported she has begun collecting information from other towns. This will be an agenda item for discussion at future meetings.
5. Other: Mrs. Pemberton has begun work on a short video presentation for the Town website. This work should be completed soon.
Jere Ross, Pine Tree Road: Mr. Ross asked what would happen to the tax money coming in from the Redding Health Care (Meadow Ridge) assessment settlement. Mrs. Ketcham commented that this was a Board of Finance issue. The certification of court costs has been received and a demand for payment letter has been sent to the Redding Health Care corporate office.
Motion: move to adjourn the meeting. Takacs, Pemberton. Approved. Unanimous.
The meeting adjourned at 9:01 pm.
Mary Maday, Recording Secretary