Police Detail Rates to Increase

April 3, 2015
by S. Aaron Shamshoyan

An increase to the town’s police detail rates will allow the entire cost of the service to be covered by the vendor and no longer subsidized by taxpayers.

Town Manager Keith Hickey brought a proposal before Salem Selectmen on March 23, for a two-step increase for the cost of vendor-requested details, raising the hourly charge from $48 to $52 in June 2015, and raising the rate an additional $3 one year later.

“This does not affect the hourly wages of the employees themselves, this is solely an amendment to the fees that we charge to our vendors,” Hickey said, adding the rate has not been changed since 2009.

Money paid for detail services is retained in a trust fund, which is used to pay for two police cruisers.  Hickey said the fund balance was about $300,000 in 2012 and down to $178,000 at the end of 2014.  There is an additional $9-an-hour cost to vendors if vehicles are requested.

Selectmen’s Chairman James Keller said a patrol officer on detail costs the town $53 an hour for wages and benefits, $5 less then vendors are charged for the service.

“In our current rates, we’re in a deficit,” he said, adding the rate should cover the entire cost of the detail.

Selectman Everett McBride said he was concerned about increasing the rate mid-year as businesses may not have budgeted for the increase.

“We got hammered on that before,” said McBride, noting previous rate increases.

Hickey said it was tough to identify when the best time would be to increase the rate as businesses have a variety of fiscal years.

Selectman Patrick Hargreaves questioned the rate of hazardous pay, saying during the FairPoint strike over the past year, a cruiser was stationed at the FairPoint building requiring hazardous charges, but often only one striker was on the scene.

Selectman Stephen Campbell proposed the increase, saying the cost would be passed on to residents and adding flagmen should be allowed in some situations.  He also feared the increase would affect the town road program which currently pays for details.

“There’s complaints in the business community that we’re charging people too much,” he said, adding the cost of the detail to the town should be reduced as opposed to increasing the revenues.

Campbell also said the union contracts with police don’t allow for flagmen to be used, and that needed to be revisited in the future.  “The state uses flagmen; lots of other towns use flagmen.”

Selectman Michael Lyons moved to increase police detail costs to $55 an hour and hazardous details to $79 an hour for vendors beginning Jan. 1, 2016.  The motion passed with Campbell and Hargreaves in opposition.

Hickey said most details were done per request by private companies.  “The vendor has called and they want to have a police officer there.”