Present: Ketcham, Pemberton, Takacs
Also present: more than 120 members of the public and a representative of the Redding Pilot.
First Selectman Ketcham called the April 8, 2013 meeting to order at 7:30 pm in the Redding Community Center.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Motion: move to approve the minutes of the March 11, 2013 meeting as submitted. Takacs, Pemberton. Approved. Unanimous.
Motion: move to approve the minutes of the March 14, 2013 meeting as submitted. Pemberton, Takacs. Approved. Unanimous.
PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION ON POLICE DEPARTMENT STAFFING
Prior to the start of the presentation, a member of the audience proposed that the agenda be changed to allow a presentation by Mr. Alexander Gray following item #2 (the presentation). Mrs. Ketcham responded with information on how the meeting would be conducted, including the opportunity for the members of the Board of Selectmen and members of the audience to ask questions throughout the presentation. There will also be an opportunity at the conclusion of the presentation for members of the audience to make additional comments.
Chief Doug Fuchs began a presentation of the Redding Police Department staffing. The presentation included past and current staffing levels and cost expenditures for the department. Chief Fuchs provided comparison information with the surrounding communities of like size. Throughout the presentation, members of the public asked questions of the information presented.
Audience questions included:
Name unclear: How would a school resource officer be funded at Joel Barlow High School, and could that cost be included in the Region 9 Board of Education since the school is shared by Easton & Redding. Chief Fuchs responded that the Redding Police Department has the responsibility for all police enforcement issues at the high school since it is located in Redding.
Chris Kimball: why is a comparison of police expenditure per square mile important since much of the land in Redding is open space and does not require policing. Chief Fuchs responded that someone requested that the comparison be presented in addition to the comparison of the per capita data.
Name unclear: this person suggested the police department find more efficiencies of operation, commented that Redding is safe and the town does not need to spend the money on policing. Chief Fuchs reminded the audience that much of the law enforcement activities deal with motor vehicle drivers who are traveling through Redding.
George Zipparo: Mr. Zipparo did not like the comparisons with other communities and what others are doing, adding that he was opposed to spending more money on policing.
Lewis Andrews: Mr. Andrews suggested making comparisons of expenditures and staffing with other communities on a national level rather than local level, adding that the town does not need a ‘Mercedes Benz” police department but just a Buick department. Mr. Andrews suggested that Chief Fuchs research what other police departments are doing to “downsize” and use civilians and volunteers to do some of the department work.
Mike name unclear: This person asked for information on police coverage based on population rather than square mile, and asked about the FBI recommendation for coverage. Chief Fuchs responded that the information presented on the police coverage per capita was based on population. The FBI’s recommendation is 2.1 or 2.2 (number of police per 1000 population). The proposed budget brings the coverage for Redding to 1.8 per 1000 residents.
Gary Miyashiro: Mr. Miyashiro asked if all police calls require a two-man response and what kind of calls were these. Chief Fuchs responded that for safety reasons, most calls require a two-man response. Examples of these calls include missing persons, crime in progress, domestic situations, motor vehicle accident untimely death, and some of these require a third or fourth officer.
Dave Streit: Mr. Streit asked how about the growth or increase of incidents over the years. Chief Fuchs presented information on call volume and incidents.
Susan Jackson: Ms. Jackson suggested that further detail on call volume, including type of calls would be helpful. She also suggested using unmanned police vehicles rather than manned vehicles to increase the perception of police presence.
Wes Higgins: Mr. Higgins noted that the chart of call volume showed a large increase in call volume between 2008 and 2009. Chief Fuchs could not pinpoint a reason for the increase in call volume other than economic conditions.
Amy Folkman: Mrs. Folkman also commented on the increase in call volume in 2009 and questioned why this occurred.
Gary Miyashiro: Mr. Miyashiro asked for details on shift length and numbers of days the police officers were working. Chief Fuchs responded that the shift is 8 ¼ hours and officers work 240 days a year. There are contractual issues that dictate some of this and there are three different bargaining units in the department (police staff, communication staff, and animal control officer)/
Name unclear: This person asked about number of police vehicles. Chief Fuchs responded that there were eight police cruisers.
Name unclear: This person asked when a new police facility would be needed. Chief Fuchs responded that an addition to the police department facility was recently completed and the cost was funded entirely by a grant. There are no plans for further enlargement or replacement at the current time.
Wes Higgins: Mr. Higgins asked if the police department had a Humvee vehicle or ATV vehicle. Chief Fuchs responded that the Humvee was provided by the Army, including repair/replacement parts, at no cost. The department also has an ATV available.
Beverly Wirth: Mrs. Wirth commented that she frequently walks at Topstone Park, along with many others, and she is happy that the department has an ATV vehicle available should there be a problem on the trails.
Name unclear: This person asked what can be done to lower the police department expenditures, especially given the lack of serious crime in town.
Michele Grande: Mrs. Grande commented that she is thankful for the presence and response of the police and cited examples of how important they are, beyond the issues dealing with crime.
Dan Conley: Mr. Conley asked questioned why the proposed police budget was increasing from $1,450,000 to $1,951,000. Mrs. Ketcham responded that the information and comparison was inaccurate. That comparison is not comparing the same budgetary items. The actual proposed budget increase is $12,931.
Steve Pomazi: Mr. Pomazi asked Chief Fuchs about special duty costs when contractors hire police officers during construction projects, etc. Chief Fuchs and Director of Finance Steve Gniadek responded that the contractor is billed for the services of the police officer, including salary and associated costs, and for the costs associated with the use of the police vehicle. Some revenue, above those costs, is realized, and that revenue is used to pay for new police vehicles.
Mr. Pomazi also questioned why police officers were promoted at time of retirement and if that promotion gained the individual a higher amount of pension. Chief Fuchs noted that it is not a policy to promote at time of retirement. The pension amount is governed by contract; a promotion would not have an impact on the amount of the pension plan which is handled by the State of Connecticut.
Peter Bonfanti: Mr. Bonfanti thanked Chief Fuchs for the presentation. Mr. Bonfanti asked if the costs for the two additional officers were included in the proposed budget for the next year, and were these positions needed in perpetuity. Mrs. Ketcham responded that two positions, School Resource Officer and Youth Officer, were approved at a Town Meeting for a period of March 1, 2013 to June 30, 2013, with the understanding that these two positions would be included in the proposed 2013-14 budget proposal. These positions were filled with current police officers. Two new officers were hired to fill the positions previously held by those officers. If the positions were not added, the police coverage for overtime would be more substantial than the cost of the positions.
Mark McMahon: Mr. McMahon asked what the Police Department’s first priority and mission statement was. Chief Fuchs responded that the goal of the Police Department is to provide the best service to the taxpayers and residents of Redding that they can provide. He commented on the amount of time spent on motor vehicle accidents, the prevention of liability issues, fire alarms, and the importance of staff training and customer relations.
Susan Durkee: Ms. Durkee read a prepared statement that included her objection to approval of the two police officer positions at a town meeting rather than a machine vote, her objection to the haste to move the approval forward, her suggestion that a police commission was needed, her concern that people were not notified of the town meeting or of this meeting, her suggestion to use auxiliary officers for police work, her concern about the hiring of the chief of police, and her criticism of Chief Fuchs and his work in Redding. Mrs. Ketcham noted that some of Ms. Durkee’s information was inaccurate. She explained that Redding functions under a town meeting form of government. Decisions for the town are made at town meetings unless a petition is submitted to take the issue to a machine vote. The funding to hire two police officers was discussed at a Town meeting, voted on, approved and that a legally binding decision. She added that this meeting is a regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen held to conduct business, not a Town Meeting. Mrs. Ketcham noted that auxiliary officers are not sworn officers and are not certified to do police work. The concept of adding a Police Commission was studied in 2002 when the police chief was hired and it was recommended by the Police Foundation that this addition would add another layer of bureaucracy and be costly for the town.
Michele Grande: Mrs. Grande, Redding’s Town Clerk, noted that the Town Meeting and this meeting were legally noticed, and notices were placed on the town’s website, in the Town Clerk’s office, and noticed in the local paper. A notification system is in place for email notification of special meetings, and if residents are not receiving notifications, the Town Clerk needs to be notified so that corrective measures can be taken.
Dana Gray: Mrs. Gray asked about personnel and equipment costs. She also suggested separating the school and town budgets. Mrs. Ketcham responded that the school board and town budgets cannot legally be separated. The town of Redding does not have a charter but operates under state statute which does not allow the budgets to be separated. The Town would need to adopt a charter to make such a change.
Jeanne Wendschuh: Mrs. Wendschuh suggested that the informational slide presentation be made available on the town’s website. Some of the charts contained numbers that were difficult to read. The slide presentation and charts will be posted to the town’s website. In addition, the entire meeting is being videotaped by volunteers Bob Moran and Chris Helland and will be available on Cablevision’s Channel 79 in a few days. Mrs. Pemberton added that the proposed budget, including personnel costs, is also available on the town’s website.
Nina Steitzel: Mrs. Steitzel asked if consideration had been given to hiring a private outside security company for the schools, and she asked how many homes had security systems. Chief Fuchs responded that residents are asked to register their security systems, but many do not. The number of alarms that the police respond to is high, and many, many of those alarms are false. Two officers respond to those calls for safety reasons. Mrs. Ketcham noted that an outside security company was never considered. The SRO (School Resource Officer) and Youth Officer have duties in the schools that embedded in the school curriculum, are considered valuable by the school staff, and these officers have roles far beyond simple guard duty.
Gwen Denny: Mrs. Denny commented that contrary what she had heard about the police officers frightening the children, the officers have created a friendly and calming presence in the schools. She experienced a lockdown with 20 children huddled in a closet, trying to keep the children safe, silent and calm. Mrs. Denny stated that she is happy that there is a police presence in the schools.
Mrs. Ketcham called for further comments or questions. There were no further comments or questions from the members of the public present.
The presentation and discussion portion of the agenda was closed and the Board of Selectmen continued with their regular agenda items.
VIBRANT COMMUNITIES INITIATIVE GRANT AWARD
Mrs. Ketcham announced that the Town of Redding had received a Vibrant Communities Initiative Grant through DECD (Department of Economic & Community Development). The $55,000 grant will be used to study historic preservation, particularly the opportunity for uses of the former Gilbert and Bennett Wire Mill property for artistic uses. An RFP (Request for Proposal) for consultant will be prepared shortly and move the study work forward.
- CL&P easement for 65 & 73 Diamond Hill Road: This is an additional easement request from CL&P for the project for underground wires in that area. One easement is for the access over a driveway to perform maintenance on wiring and the other is for existing overhead wires.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Selectmen approve the requests by CL&P for easements at 65 and 73 Diamond Hill Road, pending final review by Town Counsel. Takacs, Pemberton. Approved. Unanimous.
- Resolution for DEMHS Grant: This is a renewal of a DEMHS (Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security) Grant.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Selectmen accept the Resolution as read for the renewal of the Grant from the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. Pemberton, Takacs. Approved. Unanimous.
Motion: move to adjourn the meeting. Takacs, Pemberton. Approved. Unanimous.
The meeting adjourned at 10:02 pm.
Mary Maday, Recording Secretary