Tuesday May 18, 2010

OTIS -- Police Chief Roberta Sarnacki is urging townspeople to keep her position part-time.

The Otis Annual Town Meeting tonight is being asked to consider re-organizing the Police Department to include a full-time police chief, or keep the job part-time and make no changes to the force.

The police chief issue is one of 28 articles town meeting voters will act on starting at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall.

If voters support the concept of a full-time chief, the Selectmen will advertise the position and decide who will fill the job. Town officials said on Monday that Sarnacki would be welcome to apply because she won't automatically become the full-time chief if the measure passes.

"The voters are just being asked to choose a structure for the department," said Town Administrator Christopher Moore in a statement clarifying the intent of Article 11 on the warrant.

However, Sarnacki said Otis doesn't need a full-time chief. In a letter to The Eagle, Sarnacki cited how as a part-time chief since being hired last summer, she has used grant funds to pay for two new police cruisers, hired three new part-time officers and upgraded police training and policies in town.

"I've put together a great team of people and to dissolve that at this point doesn't seem like it would be beneficial to the town or to the Police department," she wrote.


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While the police chief's salary would jump from $10,000 to $36,000 if the job becomes full-time, the net increase to the overall police budget would be from $63,000 to $70,000 in fiscal 2011, which starts July 1. Town officials said the reliance on part-time officers for police protection would be reduced, saving $19,000 in hourly wages.

Sarnacki claims the budget with a full-time chief doesn't include health insurance costs and other benefits that could balloon the $70,000 figure to "quite possibly a cost of $100,000 to the town."

To reach Dick Lindsay: rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 496-6233.