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Thursday, May 01, 2014

RTM Committee Recommends Police, Fire Budgets

By James Lomuscio

As a prelude to the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) municipal budget vote next week, the RTM Public Protection Committee tonight unanimously voted to recommend the approvals to the full legislative body the Board of Finance approved Police and Fire Departments’ budgets for 2014-15.

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Police Chief Dale Call and Deputy Chief Foti Koskinas meet with the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) Public Protection Committee tonight. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

The two departments make up the largest portion of the town budget after the school system.

Police Chief Dale Call noted that his department’s total $9.7 million including EMS represents a lean 1.9 percent increase over the current year, “pretty good since the largest part of our budget, personnel costs, have increased 2.5 percent.”

“Compared to other departments around us, we run a pretty tight ship,” said Call, adding that capital costs have been kept down.

Call added that he and Fire Chief Andrew Kingsbury, who was present at the meeting, are working on consolidating their emergency dispatch centers for future savings—an effort that has been ongoing for several years but has been delayed because of labor issues, among other things.

“Initially, it’s not going to seem as such a savings because the consolidation will cost money,” Deputy Chief Foti Koskinas said.

“I find it to be right on the button,” Stephen Rubin, RTM committee member, said of the police budget. “You guys do an amazing job with the money you have.”

Rubin then asked if Call or Koskinas had a wish list for the future.

“An upgrade to the building,” Koskinas said.

Call said the Police Headquarters building, constructed in 1952 and “poorly renovated in the 1980s,” needs another remodel to accommodate information technology equipment, offer better locker rooms and to move the detective unit to the second floor.

Kingsbury, who attended with Assistant Fire Chief Robert Yost, said that next year’s more than $10 million budget represents a 3.64 percent increase due to two years of salary catch ups since firefighters have been without a contract for two years.

“It’s not going to be that high next year,” Kingsbury said, referring to the new contract close to being finalized.

Kingsbury pointed out that in addition to fire services, the total budget includes funding for departments under its umbrella. They include dispatch, public site and building, emergency management, for which Kingsbury is the director, and a $1.1 million in water service costs paid to Aquarion.

“If you had something that you could cut, what would it be?” asked Kristin Hamlin, committee member.

“In our business, we don’t know where the next emergency will be,” responded Yost.

The full RTM will convene Monday at 7:30 p.m. to consider the municipal budget, followed by the education budget on Tuesday.

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Posted 05/01/14 at 02:35 AM  Permalink



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