January 24, 2022
Unmarked Town Vehicles
COMMUNICATION NOTICE 2022-3
UNMARKED VEHICLES DISCUSSION SCHEDULED FOR BOS MEETING 1-24-22
At our last meeting during public comment Mr. Cabral made comments that he was hearing concerns from “His People” about unmarked town vehicles assigned to certain employees/departments. The Board of Selectmen asked that this issue be discussed at the next Selectmen's meeting. I thought it would be helpful if the Fire and Police Chief provided the Selectmen with background information/explanation why unmarked vehicles are commonly used today by Litchfield and neighboring communities. Please review the explanations provided below. If you have questions before the meeting or would like both Chiefs to be present (or attend virtually) let me know and I will make arrangements.
ACTING POLICE CHIEF SCOTTI RESPONSE
All of our unmarked vehicles are Chevrolet Traverses, two are 2020's and one is 2021. These vehicles were chosen to be unmarked for various reasons. Having these vehicles unmarked allows for them to be utilized in undercover operations/ drug investigations. This past summer, we utilized all of these vehicles for that case, which led to the seizure of approximately $12k. When I was the detective, I used my unmarked car for a drug operation which led to the seizure of 250 grams of fentanyl in town as well. In addition to these highlighted cases, these cars are used for surveillance for search warrant execution and intelligence gathering. Currently, these cars are assigned to Detective Rider, Chief Sargent and I. All of us are required to respond 24/7 365 days per year, depending on the incident or for various after hours meetings. All of these vehicles are driven approximately 20 miles to and from our homes, but the Chief and I have the ability to use the vehicles for personal business as listed in our contracts. All of these vehicles are equipped with blue emergency lights, wig wags, sirens, radios, active shooter kit, m4 rifle, medical equipment along with other crime scene and police operations related gear. Marking these vehicles would undoubtedly render them ineffective for use on undercover, surveillance or information gathering operations. As for the Chief and Captain's vehicles, these vehicles are also used for personal business by the aforementioned parties. This includes having our family members in the vehicle during off duty hours. Given the anti-police sentiment permeating the country right now, it would be reckless to have markings on the side of this vehicle as it would potentially put our families in danger. It would also advertise for would-be thieves to target the vehicle as there are weapons within. It would also make it a target for vandalism as well. It is an industry standard to leave these types of vehicles unmarked and there is no agency in Southern NH that marks these vehicles. Marking them defeats the purpose of them, to have the ability to be covert. Please let me know if you need anything else added to this.
Captain Thomas Scotti
Litchfield Police Department
FIRE CHIEF FRAITZL RESPONSE
The only "unmarked" vehicle in the fire department is a 2007 Chevy Tahoe which is for the most part exclusively used by me. I travel 13 miles to and from my home 2-3 days per week to the fire station in addition to incidents outside of those times when I am not at the station. When I am on vacation for any length of time the vehicle is left at the station for use by Deputy Nicoll. It is not typically used by department staff and when it is, it is with my or the deputies knowledge and permission. While the vehicle is "unmarked" it does have a permanent (government) plate as any other municipally registered vehicle. Historically, the marking of the vehicle has been at the discretion of the fire chief. Some Chiefs have had limited, some have had significant markings. As times change, so has the use, functions and need for markings. The current vehicle has emergency warning lights, siren and is equipped with two mobile and several portable radios, gas meter, thermal imaging camera, fire extinguisher, medical equipment/AED, Rescue Task force (active shooter) gear and incident management capabilities. In addition it carries my issued personal protective equipment and SCBA. This equipment is all extremely expensive (estimated in excess of $40,000) and costly to replace should it be stolen or vandalized from a marked vehicle. In fact a couple of years ago Bedford Fire had equipment stolen from a fully marked Deputy Chiefs vehicle while it was parked in his driveway overnight.
This vehicle is in the process of being replaced with a 2022 Chevrolet Silverado special service vehicle which will have an enclosed cap and all the current equipment transferred to it. The cap being installed has been specifically spec'd with a locking system tied to the truck lock so that there is no chance of the cap being inadvertently left unlocked and equipment unsecured. As the fire chief I am expected to respond to significant incidents at any given time 24 / 7 / 365. I frequently respond when not on duty to incidents oftentimes only to be canceled by a call from the on-call officer because the incident is not as dispatched and/or minor in nature. To facilitate this, my employment contract allows for personal use of the vehicle to accomodate a timely response. Having a marked vehicle when out to dinner, grocery shopping, or any other time it is used for personal use adds to the potential for vandalism or theft from the vehicle. More concerning to me is this use could raise issues of improper use, when in fact the use is fully allowed by contract. Like with law enforcement, it is very common for fire chiefs' vehicles to be unmarked for all of the reasons listed and then some. To the best of my knowledge, Londonderry, Salem, Bedford, Goffstown, Merrimack, and Derry fire chiefs operate unmarked vehicles. Further the Nashua Chief and Asst. Chief as well as the Hudson Chief and two Assistant Chiefs vehicles are all unmarked as are the vehicles operated by the State Fire Marshal's office. It would seem that as fire chiefs are replacing their assigned vehicles, they are moving to the unmarked concept. So we are not unlike many of our surrounding communities.
I firmly believe that while one or two people may have concerns with the vehicle being unmarked, many more will have issues with a marked vehicle being used for personal use despite it being a contractual agreement approved by the BOS. Marking the police and fire chiefs vehicles is an unnecessary expense, serves no functional purpose, nor does it improve the ability to do our job.
Town Administrator recommends 50% reduction in earned time buyout without two week notice as required in Union Contract
Town Separation: Add 50% reduction of buyback amount without two week notice
All unused Earned Time hours will be paid at the time of termination, resignation or retirement. Earned Time will be paid by the Town at the rate of pay at the time of separation. However, since a notice period of 2 weeks is considered appropriate and normal for an employee planning resignation or retirement, in cases where such notice is not given, the Earned Time payout will be reduced by 50%. In the event of the death of the employee, the Earned Time benefit shall be paid to the employee’s beneficiary, as designated on the employee’s beneficiary request form (unless other arrangements have been made). In the case of the termination of an employee due to criminal charges, pay for Leave Time will be withheld until the situation has been resolved. Exceptions to the 50% payout reduction will be considered on a case by case basis by the Board of Selectmen.
Union Separation: 50% penalty for less than two week notice
Separation: All unused Earned Time hours will be paid at the time of termination, resignation or retirement. However, since a notice period of 2 weeks is considered appropriate and normal for an employee planning resignation or retirement, in such cases where such notice is not given, the Earned Time payout will be reduced by 50%. Earned Time will be paid by the Town at the rate of pay at the time of separation.
I move to amend the personnel policy to reduce the Earned Time payout by 50% if an employee does not provide a two week notice effective April 1, 2022.
Credit Card Policy
Credit Card Policy Approval:
The Board of Selectmen reviewed the credit card policy on January 10, 2022. Unless there are recommended changes, the Selectmen can vote to approve. It will be reviewed again in 2023.
I move to approve the Town Credit Card Policy.
Credit Card Policy Review Highlights:
Overall credit for the town is $30,000 with the People’s bank.
BOS approval required for changes to credit card assignments and limits
Explains what may be purchased
No Cash-Advance Allowed
Procedures to submit receipts for payments
Procedure for lost credit cards
No changes recommended this at this time
Total Town Limit $30,000.00
Credit Card Limits:
BRUNELLE,JOHN R $10,000, SARGENT, BEN $5,000, BROWN, KEVIN $2,500, FRAITZL, FRANCIS $2,500, WHITE,KAREN $2,500, BROWN, TROY R $2,500, VARICK,VICKI $2,500,
BRIAND,THERESA L $2,000, PILON, GERRY $500
Fund Balance Policy
The Board of Selectmen reviewed the Fund Balance policy on January 10, 2022. Unless there are recommended changes, the Selectmen can vote to approve. It will be reviewed again in 2023.
I move to approve the Town Fund Balance Policy.
2021 FUND BALANCE RETENTION ESTABLISHED AT TAX RATE SETTING
USES OF UNASSIGNED FUND BALANCE:
Cash flow Town’s operations (school, county, Town, grants)
AVOID TAN’s $2k to $4k fee plus interests 90 days & loss investment income
Reduces Banking Fees (minimum daily balance)
Tax stabilization one time capital project costs
Financial stability resulting in stable tax rate
Creditworthiness / reduced interests on loans
Unexpected revenue losses
Unanticipated expenditures, emergencies, court orders
RECOMMENDED RETENTION “Guidelines”
Maintain at least general fund operating expenditures
DRA Recommends 17% to 5%
Town is 9.62%
Government Accounting Standards Board
NH Department of Administration
Town Seal Policy
RSA 31:93 Requires the Town to provide the Town Clerk with an official seal bearing the name of the town and date of incorporation.
The seal is for official town use only by town officials, departments, boards and commissions.
No other use is permitted without written permission from the Board of Selectmen
Selectmen can take appropriate legal action to remedy unauthorized use.
Adopted by the Board on September 25, 2012.
Investment Policy Review
State law requires the Board of Selectmen to annually review and adopt a policy for investment of public funds that provides a framework for the Town Treasurer to follow.
Primary purpose, in addition to compliance with state law, is to preserve safety of principal and liquidity of cash to support operational needs.
Requires Town to maintain annual bonding levels with its property liability insurance carrier.
Allows the Treasurer to delegate deposit authority to insure deposits are conducted at least on a weekly basis and daily if cash exceeds $1,500.
School Impact Fees
December 15, 2021 letter from Business Manager regarding use of impact fees
High School has inadequate water pressure due to wrong size piping.
Need booster pump and new intake piping. (estimate $40 to$50k)
High School needs new LED Fixtures (estimated $315k)
Current Available Balance $315,000
I move to expand the authorized July 26, 2021 purpose and amount of High School Impact Fees from $279,800 for HVAC expenses only to $315,000 for HVAC, water booster pump/intake piping and energy efficient LED lighting costs.
Last vote of the BOS on 7-26-21
Motion: (Selectman R. Leary / Selectman K. Lynch) I move to authorize the release of School Impact Fees for HVAC Capital Improvements at LMS in the amount of $188,118 and CHS in the amount of $279,800 to be used exclusively for the HVAC improvements as requested.
Vote: (4-0-0) The motion carried
Hudson Water Conservation
Town of Hudson required to submit this report every 3 years to State of NH
It provides an update on assets, well production, meeting standards, etc.
Reports on meters used for leak detection
Notice sent to Litchfield, NRPC and Pennichuck.
Town Administrator Report
NH DHHS Virtual Meeting Thursday, January 27, 2022 @ 6:30pm to discuss cancer concerns.
Meeting with a street light company tomorrow. The NH subsidy program was recently but attempts to restore it are ongoing.
Exploring Aerial Flyover possibility with Jayson Brennan. Town of Hudson is scheduled this spring. Cost could be $7k to $10k.
Pat Jewett Volunteer Appreciation Award Cancelled for 2022
Peak of the Omicron Virus is not a good time to invite friends, relatives, grandchildren, community leaders, etc to conduct an award ceremony.
Also no coordinator at this time.
Event is normally held as close to March 1st as possible.
Planning Board Representative - Kimberly M. Queenan
Emergency Management Team - Steven J. Webber
Recreation Commission Representative - Steven J. Webber
School Facilities Improvement Committee - Steven J. Webber
Capital Improvement Committee Representative - Steven J. Webber
Budget Committee Representative - F. Robert Leary Sr.,
Conservation Commission Representative - Kevin A. Lynch
Heritage Commission Representative - Richard W. Lascelles
RSA-91-A:3 II(a) - Employee dismissal, promotion, compensation, disciplining or investigation.