On Saturday, Becket Town Meeting to review Police Department's funding


BECKET -- Funding for the Police Department will be one of the key decisions facing residents when they convene for the annual town meeting this weekend.

Voters will act on 20 articles when they gather at Becket Washington School on Saturday at 7 p.m., including a $4.93 million budget that represents a decrease of $55,000, or 1.1 percent. The budget includes varying pay raises for town employees so each employee receives a combined 3 percent raise between this year and 2013.

All the budget requests are recommended by the Select Board and Finance Committee, with the exception of the Police Department's salaries. The Select Board approved a request of $219,600, while the Finance Committee recommends spending $203,000.

The discrepancy pertains to the likely hiring of the town's first full-time police chief in the coming months.

The Select Board is supportive of the idea, though Chairman George Fuller has voted against the move, and they want to do so while retaining the existing complement of full- and part-time officers.

The Finance Committee, meanwhile, wants to offset spending increases incurred by hiring a full-time chief -- the town is budgeting a salary of roughly $58,000 for the position -- by reducing the remaining staffing levels.

The town expects the new chief to work in patrol and administrative capacities.

This will also be the first year the Becket Ambulance Department's budget is taken out of the town's general budget following the establishment of an ambulance enterprise fund. A requested appropriation of $294,000 for salaries and expenses is projected to be covered by $204,000 in town funds, $70,000 from receipts and $20,000 from the enterprise fund.

Special warrant articles include a request of $150,000 to purchase a new dump truck to replace a 1992 vehicle used by the Highway Department. The purchase is contingent on a Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion vote at the town elections on May 19.

Another seeks to petition the Legislature for special legislation that would reduce the speed limit to 25 mph on Fred Snow and Johnson roads. The state speed limit on gravel roads is 40 mph.

If you go ...

What: Becket annual town meeting. Highlighted requests include a $4.93 million budget, potential funding for the town's first full-time police chief, $150,000 for a new dump truck, and reduced speed limits on Fred Snow and Johnson roads.

When: Saturday, 7 p.m.

Where: Becket Washington School, 12 Maple St.

To reach Trevor Jones: tjones@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 496-6214. Follow him on Twitter: @BE_TrevorJones.


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