As police, fire chiefs retire, no replacement hires planned in Barnstead
BARNSTEAD — The town, for the moment, finds itself with no chiefs.
And town officials are wondering if it might be better that way.
Police Chief Ken Borgia retired on Dec. 31. Fire Chief Mark Tetreault is retiring at the end of this month.
Selectman Dave Kerr said the town may take the opportunity to consider having the police and fire departments headed by regional departments.
"We aren't in any rush to replace them at the moment," Kerr said of the chiefs. "Both retired with less than a month's notice. We may take this opportunity to find out if we really need full-time chiefs."
Kerr said the town will revisit a proposal from the Belknap County Sheriff's Department to have the county manage the police department. In 2012, voters were presented with a plan to contract the services of the Belknap County Sheriff's Department. County officials said the sheriff's office could manage the town police with a savings of $100,000.
Voters narrowly defeated that plan. "But the vote was close, and it may be time to revisit that," Kerr said.
Town officials also want to investigate having a regionalized fire department, which would eliminate the need for a fire chief.
"Or maybe just a partnership with another town might make sense," Kerr said. "We're open to working with another town."
The town needs to take advantage of this moment, he said.
"The time is going to come when all the towns will realize we can't afford fire chiefs and police chiefs," Kerr said.
Acting Police Chief Sgt. Joseph McDowell said the town is covered at all times by at least one full-time officer; he is seeking approval to add more. The fire department has six full-time officers and a large group of call firefighters. There are firefighters on duty 24 hours a day, he said.
"I think residents of this town should feel safe," McDowell said.