GORHAM — Police Chief Adam Marsh and Fire Chief Philip Cloutier both submitted details of their first budgets to the board of selectmen on Monday evening, Dec. 2.
Not only had they spent time putting their requests together, but they were supported by town manager Denise Vallee and Finance Director Kathleen Frenette, both of whom are also new to their respective positions.
First, however, the police chief presented his recommendations to the board on how best to make the first section of Union Street less congested from Main Street to the side entrance to the parking lot of the Edward Fenn Elementary School, as well as to make the entrance and exit into the former bank building at 177 Main St., now being repurposed into an ATV rental shop, less hazardous to students leaving at the end of a school day plus to through traffic. Northeast Snowmobile & ATV Rentals, which already runs a business at 325 Main St., plans to expand its ATV rental operations from mid-May into foliage season.
The chief recommended that parking no longer be permitted on the first 213 feet on both sides of Union Street. He also recommended that sight lines be cleared by establishing a “no parking” zone on 94 feet of Main Street on the west side of the entrance to Union Street plus an additional 224 feet on the east side.
Selectman Judy LeBlanc, who noted she had once lived on Union Street, suggested that an additional 60 feet be added to the west side’s “no parking“ zone.
The chief agreed that that would be a good idea, making the proposed sight line clearance a total of 284 feet (nearly the length of a football field).
Some drivers who stop at Dunkin’ Donuts for a snack park their pickups in the street haphazardly, blocking traffic.
The selectmen scheduled a public hearing to consider these proposed changes at 6 p.m. on Monday evening, Dec. 9.
Bruce Lary of 9 Union Street, who had attended the planning board’s site plan review at which conditional approval was given to repurposing the bank building for a seasonal business, said that he is satisfied with what is being proposed.
The police chief and board members then discussed the 2020 budget, which is the last year under a three-year union contract that runs from Jan. 1, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2020.
Chairman Mike Waddell pointed out that townspeople should understand that currently there is 24-hour police coverage, which includes some dedicated contracted coverage by Troop F of the State Police.
A new patrol officer, Holly Sullivan, was hired to fill one of the Department’s two vacancies. Her first day on payroll was Monday, Nov. 25. Sullivan is scheduled to go to the New Hampshire Police Academy in Concord in April, but is on next month’s waitlist.
A background check is now underway on a promising candidate, Marsh said.
The 2020 budget includes funds to support two Gorham police officers at the Academy, including overtime pay for travel time.
Under a flexible contract, Patrol Officer Michael Turgeon is learning how to be the town’s prosecutor by shadowing and being guided by experienced prosecutor Wendy Roberts of Lancaster.
He also takes care of the department’s very crowded evidence room, which needs better labeling.
The 2020 plan is for Gorham to have a six-member police department, including the chief.
Asked about his plans for the future, Marsh replied that he would like to raise that number back to 7, allowing someone to serve as a juvenile officer, including teaching the in-school DARE program. Since serving as a detective in the Berlin P.D. was his most recent experience, he explained he budgeted to buy sufficient supplies so the Gorham P.D. could do a more comprehensive job.
Among other items, Marsh would like to buy two laptop computers, replacement taser guns and batteries, sufficient ammunition, ballistic vests (that must be replaced every five years), and finger-printing supplies.
Although he learned the pros and cons of body cameras in Berlin, Marsh explained that he does not believe buying them would be a realistic goal until 2021. The chief said he will have time to study the issue and to budget adequately for what would be a costly change.
Turning to his dispatchdepartment duties, Marsh said that he is aware that the console is antiquated and must be replaced. An existing capital reserve fund could allow that to happen this year. Before that happens, the chief expects to tap into the research done by former Fire Chief Jay Watkins and ask Deputy Sheriff Keith Roberge for his suggestions.
Capital decisions must be made about cruiser replacements, especially because at times the G.P.D. needs to have three vehicles on the road due to overlapping shifts and/or because an officer is receiving out-of-town training.
Cloutier explained that some of the fire department’s turnout gear, including helmets, have reached their 10-year “expiration” date. Firefighters who only work on the exterior of buildings can continue to wear gear that is more than 10 years since manufacture, but not those who go into burning buildings.
LeBlanc asked Cloutier whether his preliminary budget includes keeping the small firehouse at Cascade open. “It’s handy to have a truck at that end of town,” the chief replied. The truck must be kept at least at 50 degrees. This also allows useful equipment to be stored there. If the building were not used, then another dry, heated space would have to be rented, Waddell pointed out.
There was a fire recently in the roofing of the Gorham Tissue and Paper Company.
“The mill is paying the town $10,000 a week (in back taxes),” Waddell pointed out.
Cloutier then passed around a piece of rusty pipe that had been cut out of the shaft of a 1991 pumper/tanker.
Replacing that piece of equipment could cost the town between $375,000 to $400,000 or a lease-purchase agreement could be worked out.
Another possibility, the chief explained, would be seek a less costly alternative, such as buying a used engine or one with a smaller tank that holds less water, making it easier to drive and expanding the number of firefighters who could drive it.
Not only must an updated fire engine capital reserve schedule be worked out but also an ambulance replacement schedule on the EMS side of the chief’s duties.
Two issues also must be addressed at the fire-EMS station itself: Either a roof leak or a condensation problem must be corrected, and a floor drain must be repaired.
On Nov. 8, at a short selectmen’s meeting following an executive session, the board voted unanimously to give a 2 percent cost of living adjustment — COLA — to town of Gorham employees, effective Jan. 1, 2020. (Social Security recipients were notified on Nov. 27 that their benefits will increase by 1.6 percent in 2020 because of a rise in the cost of living.)
In other action, the board voted unanimously to sign a contract for $1,040 with Sanders Searches for tax collector Carol Porter’s work.