New Fairfield will vote on nearly $200,000 for public safety needs, including another school resource officer

NEW FAIRFIELD — A plan to add a school resource officer, address a staffing shortage at the city’s dispatch center and address other public safety needs will soon be put to voters.

With recent Finance Board approval, the additional $195,500 in public safety appropriations will be presented at a town meeting later this month.

Appropriations requested include funding for a third full-time school resource officer, salaries for part-time dispatchers, as well as additional funding for the purchase of a police vehicle and an increase in the ambulance contract. /city paramedic with Nuvance.

The city is looking to fund appropriations through the general fund and use money from its 2021-22 budget surplus — which finance director Olga Melnikov says is expected to be between $200,000 and $400,000 — to repay the general fund.

school resource officer

The largest of the credits requested is for a permanent School Resource Officer for the Meeting House Hill School campus and the Consolidated Early Learning Academy – $40,500 for salary and $69,500 for the purchase of a vehicle and equipment.

While New Fairfield high schools and colleges already have full-time school resource officers, police coverage in elementary schools has historically been funded through overtime.

First coach Pat Del Monaco said having a permanent School Resource Officer, also known as the SRO, at the Meeting House and the Consolidated Campus would “provide some consistency in those buildings”.

The idea to hire an additional full-time SRO came from the school’s Safety and Security Committee, whose proposal received the approval of the Board of Education and the Board of Selectors.

In addition to not having to pay overtime, according to Melnikov, the city would save nearly $18,700 since the new SRO would start at the start of the school year instead of the start of the fiscal year.

With a third permanent SRO, the city would only pay one overtime officer for SRO work instead of two, according to Del Monaco, who noted that the $69,500 requested for the purchase of a vehicle and of equipment for the SRO reflect the policy of the city and state police “that each officer has his own car.

Dispatcher Salaries

The city is seeking $58,000 for the salaries of part-time dispatchers at its emergency communications center, which is facing a staffing shortage.

Del Monaco said it was difficult to hire part-time dispatchers in part due to a 12-hour night shift requirement, and a lack of communications center employees led to steadily rising costs. overtime.

After considering different options – including merging the center with another city – she said the board of selectors and the communications advisory committee had concluded that the best option would be to keep the center in town and change staff to “having more than one person in the dispatch center during the busiest shifts and having flexible (part-time) shifts to cover the second chair. »

Instead of 12-hour shifts, Del Monaco said part-time dispatchers would work six to eight hours, which “is more appealing to part-time candidates.”

“What we’ve found when we interview part-time candidates is that they don’t want to do the 12-hour night shift…and that’s why they lose interest in coming here,” she said.

The idea is not only to attract people to flexible part-time positions, but also to help reduce overtime costs.

“We’re hoping that if we have more part-time and more flexible schedules, we won’t be paying our full-time dispatchers so much overtime,” Del Monaco said.

She noted that the $58,000 for part-time dispatcher salaries wouldn’t be a one-time thing — it would be part of the Board of Selectmen’s operating budget.

Nuvance contract and police car

The last two credits requested are for items included in the Board of Selectmen’s 2022-23 budget — one being the city’s ambulance/paramedic contract with Nuvance Health.

After informing the city of a 2% increase during budget season, Del Monaco said Danbury Hospital had returned and requested a 5% increase instead, citing COVID-related impacts on their operations.

“That’s an increase of $22,500 over what we had planned for the following year,” she said.

That didn’t sit well with Finance Council member Cheryl Reedy, who said Nuvance “knew they were going to have a raise” and should have told the city of the raise during the budget period.

“COVID costs were not unforeseen for Nuvance,” she said. “For them to come in now after we pass our budget and say (they) need a 5 per cent raise… I would tell them beat some sand.”

Although she does not know what will happen if the city does not accept the 5% increase, Del Monaco said that Nuvance has the option of not signing the contract, which would put the city in a difficult situation. .

With Reedy opposed, the Finance Board voted to approve the additional $22,500 appropriation for the ambulance/paramedic contract for a town meeting.

The final appropriation requested is $5,000 for the purchase of a police vehicle – $60,000 of which had been budgeted in the Board of Selectmen’s 2022-23 spending plan.

“It’s the shortfall on the car and equipment that we have in the budget this year,” Del Monaco said. “We budgeted for a car and increased it from what we usually budget – but because the prices have gone up so much, we are $5,000 short.”

The Board of Selectmen has set a town meeting date for Aug. 30 to consider the $195,500 in additional appropriations. The meeting will take place at the New Fairfield Senior Center at 7 p.m.