Weare residents voice concerns over possible permanent hire of interim police chief

Last modified: 5/12/2015 12:19:43 AM
About 10 Weare residents turned out to last night’s public hearing to weigh in on whether the town should hire Interim Police Chief Sean Kelly to serve in a more permanent role.

Two weeks ago, selectmen made an abrupt decision to halt their search for a full-time chief and negotiate a contract with Kelly to become part-time chief. If hired, Kelly would work 32 hours per week and serve for three years before officials would decide whether to renew his contract.

Three of the residents who showed up at the meeting argued Kelly’s contract should be shortened to one year, to give voters a say on whether to keep him on longer.

“I really don’t understand the urgency to do this now,” said resident Richard Butt.

Butt pointed out that the town has had a full-time chief for the past few decades, and he said he believes town officials should have gone through the full process of considering other candidates before settling on Kelly.

“He’s been on a six-month job interview,” he said.

Many of the residents who spoke said they believe Kelly is an excellent chief, but they also said they were concerned about his part-time status, as well as how far he lives from town.

Kelly lives 63 miles from Weare, and many residents took issue with the fact that he would be allowed to drive his police department-issued vehicle to get to work. Still, selectmen were adamant that the same rules would apply to any chief, whether or not they were part time.

With Selectman Keith Lacasse absent from the meeting, Vice Chairman Tom Clow told residents he was also initially concerned about the distance between Kelly’s home and the town, but that he had changed his mind in recent weeks.

“He’s proved himself over and over to have a level of integrity we really need,” Clow said.

Other residents took issue with Kelly’s salary and benefits.

If hired, his starting pay would be $78,000 annually, which will gradually rise to $87,107 by Jan. 1, 2018.

“Are you kidding me? Are you people kidding me?” resident Frank Campana asked incredulously as he went through a list of concerns, which included taxpayers having to pay for gas and potential repairs for Kelly’s police car.

Still, Clow told residents they were getting significant savings with Kelly’s hire, because the town does not have to provide him health benefits or pay into the New Hampshire Retirement System on his behalf.

Because Kelly is already retired, he collects a $54,571 pension from the retirement system, which also covers his health benefits. Clow estimated that will save the town between $15,740 and $28,113 per year.

“I want to emphasize, that’s not the reason we’re making this decision,” Clow said. “The reason we’re hiring this person is what he’s done for the town.”

Still, under his contract with Weare, Kelly is eligible for benefits the town provides to all full-time non-bargaining employees, but Clow said the most he believes Kelly is eligible for is an insurance buyout.

Though many residents had their questions answered, some still reiterated their belief that Kelly should be held to a one-year contract.

“He’s done a lot, but the town is still learning to trust,” resident Lori Davis said.



(Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, enilsen@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @ella_nilsen.)


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