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Police chief attributes budget increase to high gas prices

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

GROTON — The Board of Selectmen (BOS) met with police Chief Robert Mulhern Monday to review his proposed fiscal 2007 operating budget for the Police Department.

Mulhern began with a review of the dispatch department whose proposed budget for 2007 was characterized as zero-growth. With a 2.5 percent rise from 2006, the chief said increased costs for dispatching were almost entirely due to wages.

As for the police budget, Mulhern said it would remain almost flat with only a $7,177 increase over this year’s, which stands at $1,392,387.

The proposed budget did not include new positions or increased hours, said the chief. The only real increase was due to the rising cost of utilities. In particular, that of gasoline for the department’s cruisers that Mulhern called dramatic.

Capital spending items for 2007 include leasing two cruisers to replace aging vehicles.

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job at saving,” said Mulhern. “I’ve tried to do as directed and provide a very fair budget. We are doing more with less.”

Monday night, the board also:

* Appointed Townsend resident Joan MacEachern as a dispatch reserve officer.

* Appointed Connie Sartini as town diarist.

* Opened the town warrant in preparation for the annual town meeting scheduled for April 24.

* Voted to approve an agreement between the town and the engineering firm of Ammann & Whitney to conduct an engineering study of Fitch’s Bridge. To cover the cost of the services, $60,000 has been appropriated for the work.

* Conducted a public hearing attended by residents and town officials about the Recreation Department.

The department fell on hard times recently when the Recreation Commission lost all of its members prompting the board to consider options including the possible elimination of the department and the parceling out of its programs to other groups both private and municipal.

With the department’s 2006 operating budget due to run out on June 30, selectmen decided to allow the department to be discontinued when that time comes.