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Nashua chief, mayor at odds over police drug unit staffing

Union Leader Correspondent

June 03. 2014 10:37PM

NASHUA — Stressing that the city’s police force needs additional officers to combat drug problems, Police Chief John Seusing says he is concerned about a proposed decrease in the police department’s recommended budget.

“Our current drug unit is extremely busy, and the officers on the streets are extremely busy. I guess we are getting by,” Seusing told the aldermanic Budget Review Committee this week. “They have more work coming in than they have time to do.”

With Mayor Donnalee Lozeau proposing a $70,000 decrease in Seusing’s suggested $26,635,973 budget, the chief said he did not include additional police hires within his recommended spending plan, which is 2.5 percent higher than his current budget.

Ideally, Seusing would like to convert some civilian positions that would allow three extra officers to be placed into the patrol bureau. In addition, he hopes to hire four additional officers — three of which he would place into the drug unit and one that would be stationed in the undercover division.

Although the increased authorized strength has already been approved by the Nashua Police Commission, it has not been authorized by the Nashua Board of Aldermen or even placed within the chief’s proposed budget.

“Funding is certainly going to be an issue,” said Seusing, adding he is concerned about Lozeau’s recommendation to cut $70,000.

Alderman Michael Soucy, Ward 5, described the mayor’s suggested cut as “significant.”

“We have got a heroin problem,” said Soucy, adding heroin addiction is bringing other crimes into the Gate City. Rather than a cut in funding, Soucy said he would prefer the addition of one of two police officers.

If the $70,000 cut is necessary, the chief said he has found $65,000 within his suggested spending plan that could be taken, including eliminating a part-time file clerk position and information technology position that have remained vacant.

Alderman Ken Siegel, Ward 9, said he has concerns about the staffing levels within the department’s drug unit, which he believes should be increased.

“I just think you are way too thin there,” said Siegel.

Lozeau said recently that she does not support increasing the department’s authorized strength, but believes the department can work from within to fill staffing needs.

The Budget Review Committee is in the midst of reviewing Lozeau’s proposed fiscal year 2015 budget. Her fiscal plan for general fund appropriations is nearly $241.2 million, with a combined annual municipal budget of $256.5 million and a city spending cap of 2.3 percent. The existing budget is $236.1 million.If approved by aldermen, the tax rate will increase by less than 3 percent, according to Lozeau. A public hearing on the budget has been scheduled for 7 p.m. June 16 at Nashua High School North.

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