Boscawen police get 2 percent raise

Last modified: 3/9/2011 12:00:00 AM
The future looks a little brighter for police officers and chicken owners in Boscawen.

At yesterday's election and town meeting, voters adopted a zoning amendment that allows residents to keep a small flock of hens in their yards and approved a $2.99 million operating budget that includes 2 percent raises for the police and most other town employees.

The 100 residents who crowded into the basement of the Boscawen Congregational Church finished the meeting in under 45 minutes. The spending articles - which included $150,000 in addition to the operating budget for public safety reserve funds, the historical society and other measures - were passed with virtually no discussion.

A petition article that allows a tax exemption for the assessed value of new alternative home energy systems was discussed briefly before it was amended and passed.

And an article to transfer a conservation easement for the Boscawen town forest to the state Fish and Game Department was tabled, much to the chagrin of the conservation commission chairwoman.

Pamela Malcolm won the race for supervisor of the checklist, the only contested position in town elections. She defeated Brenda Bartlett and will succeed Doris Jones, who died in January at age 60.

Voters also approved four zoning amendments on the ballot besides the one permitting hens, including the adoption of an official town map and definition of a home business.

After the meeting, Town Administrator Michael Wright said the board of selectmen proposed a budget that would not raise property taxes, which limited public debate about the spending articles.

There was also a public hearing for the budget, so the information is not new to many of the residents who attended, he said.

The budget and all of the articles that were passed add up to about $8,000 less than what was approved at last year's meeting but included 2 percent raises for town employees and police officers.

The raises passed with no problem because they don't affect the tax rate, said Selectwoman Lorrie Carey.

"People are fine with adjustments within the budget, as long as you don't raise taxes," Carey said, adding that the raises will help the town offer "reasonable wages that are in line with the average for towns of our size."

Last month, Wright told the Monitor the raises would amount to $400 more per year for the newest employees and as much as $3,400 in increased wages for those with the most seniority. They come after a pay freeze enacted by the town last year in response to the bad economy.

Police pay has been an issue for Boscawen in recent years. Before former police chief Sean Sweeney left the force in December, he expressed concerns over the retention of new officers, saying low pay resulted in officers leaving for bigger towns that paid more.

The meeting ended with conservation commission Chairwoman Michele Tremblay expressing disapproval of the vote to table the last article of the night, which would have conveyed a conservation easement of the 480-acre town forest to the Fish and Game Department.

"Shame on you," she told the audience, adding that tabling an issue that one of the volunteer commissions worked hard to get on the warrant was not in the spirit of democracy.

"There is no point in having a town meeting if this is what's going to happen," she said.

After the meeting, Carey said the board of selectmen was hesitant to cede local control of the forest to a state agency. Wright said many residents would rather have a full public hearing on the issue to hear all options, instead of having to make a quick decision at the yearly meeting.

(Tara Ballenger can be reached at 369-3306 or tballenger@cmonitor.com.)




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