Police chief to ask Weare voters for two additional officers
Weare police Chief John Velleca knows that public opinion of his force is not high, so he said he will not be surprised if, at first, residents do not support his request to fund two additional patrol officers. But, after three months in his position, Velleca is hoping residents will trust him enough to believe that he is making the improvement of his officers’ demeanor – and efficiency – a priority.
That Weare needs more officers to adequately protect its population is a matter of numbers, Velleca said, citing standards determined by the FBI. Weare should have from 16 to 18 full-time officers by FBI standards, which are based on population and an area’s crime rate. At present, there are 11 sworn officers who serve Weare.
The residents of Weare will have the chance to discuss expanding the police force as well as additional proposed budget increases at Saturday’s deliberative session at Weare Middle School at 9 a.m. If all 31 articles are approved, the town’s portion of the property tax rate would increase by $1.15 per $1,000 of assessed property value, said Tina Connor, the town finance administrator.
The current total tax rate for Weare is $21.75 per $1,000 of assessed value. The town received $3.30 per $1,000 from that to fund its 2013 operating expenses, Connor said. Having held her position for 12 years of town meetings, Connor said she doesn’t expect everything to pass, but if it does, the town portion of the new tax rate would be $4.45 per $1,000.
Weare residents will be familiar with some of the articles. The proposed construction of a public works building intended to protect plow trucks and other highway equipment from exposure to the elements the vehicles are designed to battle will be discussed for the fourth year. There is the proposed replacement of the Peaslee Road bridge, which has been designated as a “red list” bridge by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation due to its structural deficiencies. Both a new public works building and the replacement of the Peaslee Road bridge were approved by voters last year by a simple majority, but failed to meet the required three-fifths of total vote to be adopted.
The town’s proposed operating budget for the upcoming year is $5.1 million, an increase of almost $70,000 from 2013. About $30,000 of that increase is dedicated to the fire department to replace turnout gear, including boots and helmets, Connor said. Voters refused an article last year that would have purchased that same equipment, so gear was included in the town’s regular operating expenses for the upcoming year.
“You cannot keep sending people into burning buildings without the gear that protects them,” Connor said. She said the town could face lawsuits as a result of the outdated equipment.
Town officials have also proposed the purchase of an additional snowplow and an ambulance, along with increasing the budgets for the library and parks and recreation.
In addition to the two officers, the police are seeking a new SUV, a $17,000 increase in operating expenses, and the funding of a new contract for increased salaries and benefits.
People will soon begin to see that the Weare Police Department is changing, Velleca said. He said he hopes residents will support his officers until that change is more recognized.
“Officers are being more empathetic and sympathetic to try and help people solve their problems rather than resorting to immediate arrest,” Velleca said. “Right now we have to show some results, and then we will gain their support.”
(Daira Cline can be reached at 369-3306 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)