Reducing overtime in the and adding a storm standby fund for the were the main points of discussion between council members and town staff Wednesday night at the first workshop for the .
Additional Patrol Officer
After being short-staffed all year — and with overtime costs totaling over $200,000 — the Rocky Hill Police Department would like to add another patrol officer to the force.
Lt. Brian Klett, who handles scheduling for the department, prepared a presentation for the council explaining how adding one officer will reduce most, if not all, the department's overtime.
“One piece of advice I received when I took over the police schedule was it is a monster. If you don’t feed it, it will bite you back,” he said.
Town Manager Barbara Gilbert said if not for mandatory salary increases and the lieutenant’s position being only funded for half time, the “additional patrol officer would have been funded within actual dollars of last year's budget. “
The department on average has three to five shifts that need to be filled each week because of sickness, vacation, injury or training. Gilbert said the overtime issue is a “monster and needs to be taken under control.”
Councilor Barbara Surwilo, who has strong opinions on the topic, said she was against adding another officer to the department and wanted a thorough discussion on the issue.
“It’s a tall order,” she said about changing her opinion.
Majority Leader Philip Sylvestro, who was also passionate about the issue, said the town has significantly changed over the last 30 years, but the department has not added an officer since 2000.
“Maybe it is time for another sworn officer,” he said.
Instead of rushing through the presentation on Wednesday night, the council decided to table it until its meeting on Monday at 7 p.m. inside the Council Chambers at .
“What is there is important and it deserves the time that is necessary,” Klett said.
Fire Department Storm Standby Fund
Before major snow and ice storms, volunteer firefighters will stay at the town’s fire stations to reduce response time and help eliminate driving through the disaster conditions to make an emergency call.
“It is for any time that there is a problem with response time,” said Assistant Chief Kevin Morton.
Fire Chief Michael Garrahy said the department has been doing this practice for several years. By having the full crews of six people at the station, it ensures the safety of his firefighters and the residents of Rocky Hill.
“It is safety factor,” Garrahy said. “It is to protect the public.”
However, during the and , firefighters spent five straight days at the fire headquarters. These events coupled with recent trends made Gilbert decide to create a “storm standby” fund.
Councilor Joe Kochanek thought the budget document was unclear and wanted to make sure where the money was being taken from. Last year, there was not a line item in the budget for the “storm standby” fund and in this year's budget, $20,000 was added to the fire department budget for it. In previous years, the town has taken the money from department’s part-time salaries account.
The council decided to add “storm standby” fund to the revisit list, so the board could discuss the item again at future workshops.
Fire Department Radio Receiver
Council members also discussed another item in the fire department budget, which was the addition of a radio receiver on the Vexation Hill water tank in the west end of town.
According to fire officials, the radio reception in the west end of town has been spotty at times and they want to add the receiver to improve communications in that area.
“It is a safety aspect, you need good communications,” Garrahy, who had a show of support from volunteer firefighters in the room, said.
He said the west end of town has grown since the radio system was installed in 1982 and the topography in that area of Rocky Hill has changed.
The planning to add the receiver is in its preliminary stages and the department has not been on the site yet, Morton stated. The department is currently trying to get the proper approvals.
“We just wanted to get the ball rolling,” Morton said. The Metropolitan District Commission has agreed to let the town use the water tank without charging it a fee.
Kochanek, who helped design the radio system in 1982, wanted to make sure all “the bases were covered” and the town and the department knew exactly what they needed to purchase and to do on the site. It is unclear if there is a generator on the site that the receiver could use for power.
“The nuts and bolts of this have not been really worked out,” Kochanek told Morton.
The council also added this item to the revisit list.
There will be increases in its training, gear and personal equipment protection accounts in this year’s budget because the fire department is actively recruiting and it is looking to add 10 new members this year.