Salisbury considers doubling police patrol hours, saving money for new DPW

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 02-07-2023 4:10 PM

The possibility of doubling police patrol coverage to 16 hours a week became a main point of discussion during the Salisbury budget public hearing Monday night. 

A petitioned warrant article will ask residents at Town Meeting to approve an additional $33,000 to increase “police patrol coverage” beyond the current 8 hours a week “to ensure the safety of the motoring public and safety of the residents of Salisbury.” 

“I know my personal reason for not recommending this is simply that the state police have not been able to provide the eight hours of coverage that we are currently budgeted,” said Brett Walker, the selectman chair. “In the month of December, I believe it was seven patrols out of eight they were able to cover. In November, I believe it was six. I think October was five. They are shorthanded, and they are, at this point, not able to provide the eight hours that were budgeted, so for me, it's a pretty simple decision. It doesn't make sense for us to raise another $33,000 if the state police are not able to provide patrols.”

Neither the Board of Selectman nor the Budget Committee recommended this increase.

The budget proposal for 2023 is $1,448,481, which is a 12% increase over 2022 spending. If all the warrant articles are approved, town expenses would rise to $1.7 million, an increase of about 10% over 2022.

Another major warrant article of discussion was the plan to add $152,517 to the Land Acquisition Capital Reserve Fund as part of the town’s effort to replace the elected road agent position with a new highway department. The ultimate plan included purchasing of equipment like dump trucks with plows, sanders, and other pieces of heavy machinery and a location to store it. Finding a location is what Walker said is the first step in this process.

“We've had a lot of conversation concerning road maintenance in this town,” Walker said. “We know for a fact that the situation is going to change. We don't know the exact date, but we know it's closer than not that the current road agent is not interested in continuing for an extended period of time.”

The Board of Selectman and Budget Committee both recommended the article pass. It would add less than $200 a year to the taxes of a home worth $300,000.

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“I will say that this is money that nobody wants to spend,” Walker said. “The select board doesn't want to spend it, the budget committee doesn't want to spend it. But we recognize that this is a situation that's going to happen, and we don't want to find ourselves ill-prepared.”

Walker pointed to neighboring Andover as an example of why they want to be proactive by raising money now.

“They had nothing saved, no equipment. They had to put everything together all at once,” he said. “It's an inevitable thing that we're going to have to do, and so the intention is to spread it out, not wait five years and have to come up with $2 million or whatever to buy land and buy equipment and get everything built.”

In addition to the Town Meeting held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 14, Salisbury residents will vote for a selectman, a trustee, two library trustees, three members of the budget committee, two members of the pla nning board, two members of the zoning board and a cemetery trustee by ballot during the day. All positions are for three-year terms.

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