Hooksett votes to abolish police commission
Harry Kozlowski Photo Hooksett voted for town candidates and decided on warrant article questions on Tuesday, May 14. Campaigning outside Cawley School, from left, are David Ross, Kevin Van Horn, Don Winterton, David Pearl, R.J. Ouellette and Marc Miville. Winning the open seat on the Hooksett Town Council was Ross. (Harry Kozlowski Photo)
Voters also chose David Ross as town councilor, endorsed making recycling mandatory, and said no to the proposed municipal operating budget, forcing Hooksett to go on a default budget.
The petitioned warrant, which abolishes the body by rescinding the 1975 vote that formed it passed 389 to 329. The commissioners will now have 240 days to “finish their work,” particularly the revision of the department’s standard operating procedures and the implementation of a 2011 audit of the department.
The commission has been a controversial body in town for some time. The commission weathered criticism in 2012 for alleged department micro-management, transparency issues, and the length of the search for a new police chief (15 months).
“I think it was the right thing to do,” said Ross. “I think time has passed for its existence as a three-person board, and to try to revisit returning it to a five-person board I thought would be convoluted. I’m glad it went the way it did.”
Supporters of the commission have pointed to the department’s recent strides in personnel, productivity and morale, the hiring of a popular new police chief, and the commission’s success in implementing many of the recommendations of a 2011 audit.
They have also argued that the body provides an independent oversight on the department, protecting taxpayers and insulating the department from the town’s sometimes contentious politics.
The town’s recently formed Public Works/Recycling Union, whose first collective bargaining agreement passed by a vote of 434 to 280. The agreement is comprised of two salary and benefit increases: $37,429 in 2013-14, and $29,195 in 2014-15.
Another controversial warrant, an advisory referendum on the establishment of mandatory recycling at the curbside and recycling center “for the purpose of increasing recycling rates to keep fees and taxes lower, by lowering disposal costs,” passed 376-345. Should the Town Council move on the issue, it could adopt an amendment to the Solid Waste Ordinances establishing the policy.
The town’s operating budget of $16,388,572 failed by a vote of 294-405. The town will now operate under a default budget of $16,022,113.
Items which are not included in the default budget are $230,416 for the Police Department for the reorganization of staff, an increase in the number of positions, training funds, fuel increases, and the replacement of a cruiser. Also not included in the default budget are 2 percent nonunion employee raises coming to $42,270, cable access programming at $40,000, a part-time finance department position at $14,795, and an increase in part-time library hours.
In the race for Town Council, Ross, a former councilor, defeated Budget Committee Chairman Marc Miville for the at-large seat by a vote of 386 to 304.
Miville, a supporter of the Police Commission, ran as a what he called a “data-driven stickler for procedure.” Ross called for “politeness” and “respect” over rigid procedure in council dealings while arguing that if the size of the commission could not be increased, the body should be abolished.
Kevin Van Horn won two Budget Committee slots on write-in votes, but has chosen to take on the three-year position, said Town Clerk Billie Hebert. She said other write-in candidates will be contacted to see if they have any interest in the one-year position on the Budget Committee.
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