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Police Department budget provides safety, chief says

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SHIRLEY — Residents with experience in law enforcement and others concerned about public safety spoke up in favor of the Police Department budget.

The nearly $600,000 line item that police Chief Paul Thibodeau had requested for salaries and wages ensures two officers on every shift, he said. “It’s very dangerous to work alone.”

School Committee member Paul Wilson, who said he was once a police officer in another town, told the Tuesday, June 24 session of Annual Town Meeting (ATM) that the risks of a solo shift can slant an officer’s judgment. “I’ve worked alone on a shift,” Williamson said. “You do your job, but you view situations differently.”

Two police officers have been shot during his 32-year tenure with the department, the chief said in making a case for new bullet-proof vests and other costs that upped the expenses line almost $4,000 from the amount the Finance Committee recommended.

In addition, gas and fuel costs have risen dramatically, making cruiser patrols around town pricier. But Thibodeau said high-visibility police presence on the town’s rural roads is key to crime prevention and contributes to citizen’s safety and feelings of well-being.

The FinCom recommendation for the salary and wage line item was $551,730.

Selectmen Chairman Leonardo “Chip” Guercio offered a “compromise” amendment that downsized the original number to $581,730.

Thibodeau said while the FinCom version is “not safe,” he can “live with” the mid-line budget Guercio proffered.

“Maybe he can live with it, but I can’t,” said resident Rachel Sizer. “I think we should give the police chief what he needs to run his department.

Resident Kevin Hayes agreed. “This could be a life or death vote,” he said.

But some said they wondered where the money will come from, and the specter of a “townwide override” was raised. “Something has to give,” one woman said.

In the end, voters approved the higher amount Thibodeau requested — $599,730.

At that point the FinCom’s balanced budget was history.

Town accountant Bobbi-Jo Colburn said the shortfall was $50,000, excluding the $211,000 for the school that was made contingent on an override at a previous session.

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