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Candia debates whether to hire new police officer

Union Leader Correspondent

March 03. 2014 7:14PM

CANDIA — Last summer, Candia Police Chief Mike McGillen fought hard to hire a new full-time officer and won a battle with some of the town's selectmen, convincing the board to reserve money for the post.

The position has since been filled, but last week McGillen was once again in front of the board, this time requesting that he be allowed to replace an officer who recently left the department.

"It didn't go as well as I planned," said McGillen. "I'm at a bit of a loss because I was right there last year, with a room full of people, and the message was loud and clear from residents. They wanted that extra police position. They wanted it filled."

Chairman Fred Kelley was among the three selectmen — along with vice-chairman Carleton Robie and Amanda Soares — who voted to support hiring two part-time officers, as opposed to filling the vacancy with another full-timer.

"I really don't think we need one. We've been without one for almost two years, and I think we need to hire some part-time guys instead," said Kelley. "We need to hire them, train them well and if we need another full-timer in the future, hopefully we'll be able to make one of these part-timers into a full-timer."

Though the most recent vacancy is fresh, the Candia Police Department has struggled to keep a full roster due to officers leaving for other agencies, including two who departed for Bedford in recent years.

Currently, Candia has an officer in the full-time academy. Once he's out, the department will have six full-timers, but McGillen's department is budgeted for seven.

Kelley specifically pointed to rising insurance rates and retirement costs as primary reasons to avoid hiring another full-time employee. The town contributes an additional 25.3 percent of an officer's gross salary toward retirement.

The officer who recently left the Candia Police Department made $65,990 in gross wages in 2013, which equates to a $16,695 contribution to the state's retirement system.

A younger officer with a lower salary would cost the town less in retirement costs, however part-time officers could collectively fill the same hours without the markup for benefits, said Kelley.

McGillen said he understands the viewpoint presented by Kelley and the other selectmen who voted against the full-time officer, but argued that the logic is flawed.

"It's great to have that part-time coverage, but in terms of using them to replace a full-time officer, you just don't get the same level of service," he said.

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