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Policing in Barnstead a lonely endeavor

Union Leader Correspondent

March 29. 2012 11:14PM

BARNSTEAD - Police Chief Kenneth Borgia has his hands full these days, both on the streets and off.

Despite complaints from residents and a town-commissioned report recommending changes in the police department, it's back to business as usual after residents rejected two recommended solutions earlier this month and instead cut the police budget proposal.

'We'll continue to do what we do professionally with the budget we have,' said Borgia, who says he's now on patrol most of the time by necessity, performing his duties as police chief sparingly. 'We just don't have the manpower to do what we need to do.'

Borgia and town officials have said for months that improvements are needed to protect the safety of the town's 4,000 residents. A hired consultant said in a report to the town that there have been 'significant and serious deficiencies in the manner in which police operations are managed in Barnstead.'

To address the problems, which town officials say are mostly due to the police department's small staff and its officer retention problem, was addressed in the form of two warrant articles earlier this month. But neither solution won voter approval.

Borgia and the selectmen presented an article asking residents to hire the Belknap County Sheriff's office to run the town's police department. If approved, the county would have hired the town's four full-time police officers as county sheriff deputies, and Borgia would have remained as the supervising officer under the guidance of county authorities.

Though selectmen said the county plan would have saved the town $100,000 in 2012, residents voted down the article, 77-144, in a message interpreted by town officials as voters wanting to retain local control of their police department.

Another article, which would have been moot had voters opted for the county police plan, asked voters for $80,000 in needed police equipment, including two new police cruisers, and the proposed police budget included money to hire two full-time officers, Borgia said.

But the equipment article was defeated, and the two additional police officer salaries were cut. Voters did approve $30,000 for a new police cruiser.

Borgia said he's still waiting for his final 2012 budget numbers from town officials.

'It's just tough to do with the staff we have,' he said. 'We worked for more than a year to make that plan feasible; it was a consolidation plan that provided functional redundancy, and it would have saved the town a substantial amount of money, but people didn't like the idea I guess.'

The police department will continue to do its job, he said. 'We'll take it day by day,' he said.

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