By MAUREEN DOHERTY
LYNNFIELD — With the town’s estimated revenue for FY’16 potentially increasing by over $3 million to $50.2 million, preliminary budgets under development by the various town departments reflect a desire to offset the Band-Aid approach of post-recession budgets to correct some deficiencies.
The Police Department is one such budget that Police Chief Dave Breen believes is in need of expansion. Immediate needs the chief hopes to fund in the coming fiscal year include four new officers, three new tasers, two new police cruisers and one new rifle.
Breen is also pleased that the town has begun the process of evaluating the deficiencies in the nearly 60-year-old public safety building and he looks forward to working with the Public Safety Building subcommittee to advance that agenda. He views the building as “beyond its usability,” but also acknowledges the reality of the timeline as the town is only one year into a five- to seven-year process. “We need to keep focused in that regard,” he said at the town’s recent budget summit meeting of department heads.
Five months into the fiscal year, Breen said his department has expended 42.2 percent of the FY’15 budget with the only glitch being the department’s overtime account that ran “a little high” as a result of one dispatcher on surgical medical leave for two months. The dispatcher has since returned to the job, he said.
The department’s staffing deficiencies are not a surprise, Breen said, pointing to the study done in 2009 that revealed the town’s changing demographics would require more officers.
The town is currently one officer short and with a second officer, Charlie Peabody, set to retire in early January after over 40 years on the job, they will be down two in just a few weeks. The department’s detective was promoted to sergeant this past year and is currently splitting detective duties with a patrol officer. And the department’s school resource officer, Ray Barnes, become trained as the town’s K9 officer over the summer. Although the K9 team creates a force multiplier in some situations, such as crowd control and searches, it leaves a gap in the schools.
“To get us where we need to be four officers would plug those two gaps, give us an option to replace Sgt. (Nick) Secatore, so that we could have a full-time detective and also have an officer who could assist us with traffic and a school resource officer, which the School Department has made very clear to me that they’d like to have an officer in the schools regularly,” Breen said. Breen added he and the School Department are committed to “working together to accomplish that.” All three selectmen subsequently indicated their support for Breen’s staffing request Monday night (see related story beginning on Page 1).
Police cannot get around a town the size of Lynnfield without a reliable set of wheels. But recently, the department was forced to put a cruiser back on the road that had been removed from service because of its high mileage. “It is beyond its serviceable lifespan for a police cruiser,” Breen said. But he explained, it had to be done to replace another cruiser with even higher mileage of 139,000.
“Typically, we get one new cruiser one year and the next year we get two. The last couple of years we’ve only had one new cruiser” added to the fleet, he said. For FY’16, Breen will request two cruisers. He said one cruiser is currently on order but they will also need an unmarked cruiser for the new detective.
Other new purchases the department will seek to fund in FY’16 include two new tasers and one new rifle. Breen said five officers would like the option to use tasers and they currently have three available. The rifle request is the final purchase in a multi-year plan to replace all of the department’s 20-year-old rifles, which Breen said was “ancient” for a patrol rifle.