To The Daily Sun,
Attending the public Bristol Budget Committee meeting on Tuesday night (Feb. 2), I had asked the question of why our $1,021,783.18 Police Department is spending $40,000 in overtime (why this is a line item, I'll never know). This same department that has a 50 percent turnover rate in personnel.
Kerrin Rounds, chair of the Budget Committee, could not give me an answer. Shaun Lagueux, vice chair of the Selectboard and Selectboard rep to the Budget Committee, holding his rubber stamp, acted like it was business as usual. This same committee was asked what the negotiations for the police chief's new contract (which is due in March) looks like, and the answer was, it is in the process.
This department head has increased his budget every year since he took over the department in 2010. The PD budget back then was $834,872 with a population closer to 3,500. This year he is asking for $1,105,745. It's time for a new department head. I came away feeling like it was the taxpayers who are working for our town employees, not the other way around. I should have expected nothing less. I did not stay in the room very long.
The Police and Fire department heads have been running this town with the rubber-stamp committee and certain members of the Selectboard backing them at every request for years. The budgets for these two departments will be over $2,138,077 this year. And why is the Fire Department chief the negotiator for Bristol's ambulance service to our surrounding towns? This town could get along very nicely with half the size of these services we do not use or need, thank you very much.
This year, the town of Bristol, with its 1,900-plus tax bills and population of 3,000, is looking down the barrel of a $6,047,896 budget before the additional $595,500 in warrant articles the rubber-stamp committees have come up with for our March 12 Town Meeting. Not surprising, $293,500 of these warrant articles are for the Police and Fire departments.
The town of Bristol's unofficial town flower is, real estate "for sale" signs. Stop by and check at our new town square and admire all of our empty store fronts. With loose cannon taxes ever increasing, this is not a business-friendly environment.
We have submitted two petition warrant articles. The first is to rescind the Budget Committee (RSA 32:14, V), which makes sense with the failure of accountability of how money in our departments is being spent, with the irresponsible attitude toward taxpayers, stacking the deck with retired public employees with self-serving interest and the conflict of interest when spouses of town employees are sitting on said committee. This committee has proven time and time again a reckless abandonment when it comes to handling millions of taxpayer dollars. Drop a bag of money in front of them and watch how fast they will spend it on ventures that never come to pass.
The second is to reduce the Police Department by two officers; that will save the town about $140,000 more or less a year.
Not surprisingly, these two warrant articles will be the last to be discussed at the March meeting, when only the special interest groups are left in the room. If you don't show up to vote to put an end to all of this runaway government spending in this town, you will only have yourselves to blame when next year we will be looking at a $7 million budget. Don't think it will not happen.
I will be voting for John Sellers and J.P. Morrison for Selectboard this March, so we can put conservative values back into our local government to protect our taxpayers, arrest the spending and take back our town from department heads that don't even live in this town.
Eric T. Rottenecker