Select Board Reviews Proposed Public Safety Budgets
The Holliston Select Board convened its weekly meeting at 7:00pm on Monday, March 6, 2023. Chair Ben Sparrell promised a “public safety agenda” for this meeting.
Before diving into the budgets, a brief interlude for nature and our Agricultural Commission. The Select Board put out a call for members to fill all five seats on the commission. Two existing members of the commission requested to continue, and two new members expressed interest in joining. Nancy Dubin of Willow Brook Farm and Sean Maher of Twisted Carrot Farm will join current members Diana Phillips and Cherie Hafford. There is one open seat remaining. Interested parties should contact the Town Administrator, email@example.com.
FY2024 Budget Reviews:
Town Administrator’s Recommended Budget Document as of March 2, 2023. The document can be viewed here ->
Most folks will probably want to get the overall picture, which is shown below.
Prior to the Police and Fire Departments’ budget presentations, Town Administrator Ahern provided the following introduction to show how the decision to outsource our emergency dispatch services to the Holbrook RECC impacts FY 24 budgeting.
Chief Stone presented his rationale for the requested budget which includes 3 new patrol officers (the above chart shows how staffing will be redeployed after joining the RECC). He noted that in the last fiscal year, HPD responded to 17,571 calls for service. Above and beyond call responses, officers completed 40 hours of in-service training, participated in community events, and 15 officers have met the POST criteria to be certified law enforcement officers in MA. The remaining officers will complete the certification process by June 2024.
The Chief was quick to point out that while he is often the face of HPD, it is his staff: the sworn officers and civilian employees that deliver outstanding service 24/7 to our community.
- Police (01210): $3,582,914 (+5.48%)
- Auxiliary Police (01211): $16,902 (0.0%) – The number of volunteer officers has dwindled as a result of the additional training requirements related to police officer certification. Stone noted that several communities have had to disband their Auxiliary units. Holliston currently has 6 auxiliary officers (down from a peak of 16).
- Animal Control (01292): $38,000 (0.0%) Ashland shares an animal control officer with Holliston. The budget reflects Holliston’s cost in that arrangement.
The Board thanked HPD for its excellent service and Chief Stone for his consistent leadership of his law enforcement agency.
- Fire Department (01220): $972,535 (- 0.7%)
Mr. Cronin recognized six members of HFD who recently retired after serving the Town for a collective 185 years! Below is the tribute posted on Holliston Fire’s Facebook page.
Of the 185 years of service, Deputy Chief Jim Moore might be the record holder for length of service.
It may seem trite but Thank You for your unwavering service to Holliston!
- Ambulance (01231): $957,502
The proposed Ambulance budget includes a new leadership position to head up the Emergency Medical Service function AND lead the effort to achieve Advanced Life Support certification for Holliston’s ambulance service. The pursuit of the ALS certification will be a 3 -5-year process.
- Mrs. Hein:
- Read an email from Max Emery related to pedestrian safety concerns in the Mudville area and along Central and Woodland streets.
- Shared a resident’s concerns voiced via phone conversation regarding weekend construction activity and noise going on at an existing site at Hopping Brook Industrial Park
- Mr. Cronin: Asked Mr. Ahern the status of the Memorandum of Understanding Holliston has with Ashland regarding Animal Control. It will be pursued at a later date.
- Mr. Sparrell:
- At this month’s Select Chat, he met the new Sr. Ctr. Assistant Director Amy Rose.
- The Envisioning Future Holliston kick off meeting was last Wednesday.
- Thank you to Yvette and Chris Cain, who recently announced their planned retirement as the publishers of the Holliston Reporterhttps://hollistonreporter.com/2023/03/whos-next/, for all that they have done with the Reporter and around town.
Chris Pierce (bottom left) and Liz Thieler (right) added comments and asked questions related to the Fire and Ambulance budgets and how the new position would best work within the Holliston Fire Department. Mr. Pierce asked the Board and the Fire Chief to start planning for staffing 3 – 5 years AFTER achieving ALS certification with goal of achieving a unified department. Mrs. Thieler complimented Mr. Sparrell, noting that the recent survey showed 65% of respondents want better EMS service.
The Board thanked Mr. Pierce and Ms. Thieler for their comments.
Review Draft Select Board Memo on Capital Projects for Working Group of Select Board, Finance Committee and School Committee
Mr. Cronin, Mr. Ahern, and Finance Director Chris Heymanns prepared a memo for distribution to the other members of the Capital Projects Working Group – and the public. The memo outlines a borrowing strategy that addresses the many capital projects (known and potential). Cronin characterized the plan as “quite an affordable way to attend to the Town’s infrastructure.” Actively pursuing State and Federal funding for our projects is also part of the strategy.
The Select Board approved the memo as amended / edited for distribution.
Warrant(s): The Board unanimously approved the weekly warrant totaling -> $799,703.83
Comments from the Town Administrator:
- The hiring process for a new Town Accountant is underway.
- Citizens who want to send in thoughts following last week’s EFH kickoff meeting can send them here -> firstname.lastname@example.org. Soon a dedicated site will be set up by the Town’s consultant to engage as many residents as possible.
- The Woodland Street bridge will be closed for at least one month.
- A group has approached the Town Administrator regarding a tribute to Spenser who recently passed away.
Board Business: The Board took the following actions:
- Approved the Request for Acceptance of Chapter 269 of the Acts of 2022 that allows a one-time COLA increase from 3 – 5% for FY 23. See details below.
- Approved a One-Day All Alcoholic Beverage for March 18, 2023, Upper Town Hall Boston North Bartending Service
- Approved the minutes from the January 23, 2023, meeting.
Mr. Cronin alerted the Board that the State House of Representatives has approved an extension of remote participation through 2025. The State Senate has yet to act and the current deadline for the remote provisions expires at the end of THIS MONTH.
Mrs. Hein sits on the MAPC. Other member communities have Town Staff sit on the Council. Food for thought.
The meeting adjourned at 9:54pm.
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The MRI’s FIRST recommendation in the Fire Services section:
“Create a full-time Assistant Chief position (or other titled high ranking officer) to work with Chief in ALL FIRE and EMS items…”
In another Fire Services section: Opportunities “Adding an ASSISTANT CHIEF position” p 48
It is clear that the NEED is present for an Assistant FIRE CHIEF that deals with ALL FIRE as well as EMS items.
All fire Departments in the area, Medway, Ashland, Hopkinton, etc. that have ALS have cross-trained departments. This points to the requirement of a Assistant Fire Chief to work in ALL FIRE items.
Yet in the middle of the budget review the Fire Chief pulls a rabbit out of his hat and recommends the new hire be only in Charge of EMS! The review of the Fire section as well as Facilities section showed the need for an Assistant Chief for all FIRE ITEMS!
Besides with all the Emergency Management work and presentations and meetings the Chief attends it is clear that Holliston Needs An Assistant FIRE Chief for ALL FIRE items.
Congratulations to Select Board member, Tina Hein for noting prior to the Chief’s magic act that the Chief had placed all of the Assistant Chief’s salary in the Ambulance budget and questioned it.
Let’s hope the residents of Holliston have their day in supporting an ASSISTANT FIRE CHIEF to work in ALL FIRE and EMS items.