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January 15. 2013 10:38PM

Londonderry may boost police presence at high school

LONDONDERRY - The town council unanimously agreed Monday night to move the town's proposed $27.5 million operating budget forward to the March ballot.

If passed, next year's town tax rate would be $4.75 per thousand dollars of assessed property value.

Article 8, which asks voters to raise $101,000 for additional school resource officer coverage, was the topic of much discussion Monday night. If passed, the item would represent an impact of 3 cents on the tax rate.

Councilor Tom Dolan suggested the article be edited to read "for the purpose of hiring additional school resource officer coverage" to leave options open for adding two part-time or one full-time officer in the school district as needs dictate in the future. However, Councilor Joe Green said he felt the article's intention was specifically to bring additional police coverage to the high school.

"I think the intent you're looking for is intact but giving flexibility to the town manager is also important," Dolan told Green.

Police Chief Bill Hart, who is also acting as town manager, said school resource officers are subject to the same training as any other police officer, in addition to training geared specifically for a school setting such as arrest procedure, drug laws and search warrant issues.

"I've said unequivocally that (putting another school resource officer at the high school) is exactly what we intend to do next September," Hart said.

Budget committee member Todd Joncas reminded the board that having flexibility in the language could easily create complications during next month's deliberative session, as "any member of the public could move to double this."

"We're bound to have a lot of discussion on this item in both directions (at the deliberative session)," Dolan said.

Hart said the failure of Article 8 would not, of itself, preclude the hiring of additional police officers, though he urged voters to "be very cautious."

"That's why flexibility is probably better: I've already indicated to the council we'd consider part-time officers if it comes to that, though as the police chief, hiring part-time officers isn't something I'm excited about," Hart said. "I'd be highly disinclined to do so, though I appreciate the concerns being raised."

Finance Director Susan Hickey said the article's final wording remains to be determined as town officials seek legal advice on the matter prior to the deliberative session, though the town council ultimately gave Article 8 its blessings going forward.

Londonderry's deliberative session is scheduled for Feb. 4. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Londonderry High School cafeteria.

aguilmet@newstote.com


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