By Ginger Costen Patriot Correspondent
Oxford – Having already been at this point in the hiring process for permanent intermittent police officers earlier this year, the Oxford Selectmen were relieved to finally be able to accept an independent panel's recommendation for six new officers at their December 20th meeting.
At the July 26 board meeting the selectmen voted to hire nine officers; however, a complaint was filed in August stating the selection process had been tainted because of a conversation that was overheard by one of the previous appointees between Selectmen Henry LaMountain and Michael Voas.
In September the state Civil Service Commission investigated the complaint and voided the first selection process. The Board of Selectmen was directed to redo the entire hiring process without any involvement from either Selectmen LaMountain or Voas. The Commission also ordered Board Chairman Jennie Caissie to appoint an independent panel to interview the potential police candidates and recommend the finalists.
Chairman Caissie appointed Theresa Colognesi, Vice President of Human Resources at Savers Bank; James Mallory, Westboro Town Manager; and lawyer Thomas Ford who is also a former state police detective. The panel interviewed 13 applicants and sent a recommendation for six finalists.
The board voted to offer the part-time positions of permanent intermittent police offer to Matthew Laskes from North Oxford, Daniel Karle from Dudley, Roy Aquafresca from Oxford, Michael Vigeant from North Oxford, Jennifer Randall from Oxford and Michael Gifford from Oxford.
At the December 6 board meeting, the selectmen approved an immediate fulltime lateral transfer position after listening to a presentation by Police Chief Michael Hassett. He cited an increase in house and car break-ins as well as thieves steeling scrap metal and copper from empty homes and businesses as one of the major crimes in the area. Chief Hassett had told the Board of Selectmen at the November 15th meeting that the department needs two full time officers to help with the current demands.
Selectman Dennis Lamarche nominated the panel's six candidates. Selectman John Saad said he was also very impressed with the panel and seconded the nomination. Neither Selectmen LaMountain nor Voas was present at the December 20th meeting and they did not vote at the November 15th meeting.
Chief Hassett told the board at the November meeting the he knows every department is suffering right now because of the economy. "But in the next couple of weeks I'm going to have three officers going out because of injuries and one won't return until February and the other two will be into March or longer," said Chief Hassett.
According to Chief Hassett the average age of the department is 45 years-old. "We have seven people who are in their 50's, six in their 40's, six in their 30's and none in their 20's," he said. Hiring two lateral transfers would be a quick and solid fix."
With a lateral transfer the officers would already be trained through the police academy and would save the department both the time (six months) and money ($3,000) of having to send an applicant to training as well as pay the officer during the training ($22,000 - $26,000).
According to Chief Hassett the department is suppose to have 22 officers but they haven't had that many for several years. Currently there are nineteen officers with 15 patrolmen, three sergeants and the chief.
The immediate need is for the second and third shifts; however, the overtime that the department is accruing is beginning to worry both the selectmen and Chief Hassett. "Overtime is getting destroyed and we need boots on the ground for officer and public safety," he said.
"I understand that you're having to pull a few shifts yourself and that's not a good thing," said Selectman Lamarche. "So I'm willing to approve one lateral transfer for immediate relief but I still firmly believe in hiring the intermittent police officers who come up through the process."
Chief Hassett said that everyone in the department is doing what they have to do to get the job done but he worries about morale. "I have officers pulling a forty hour shift with 20 hours in overtime and that's not including the detail work. But that gets old and the officers can't maintain it - you need balance," Chief Hassett said.
At the December 20th meeting Chairman Caissie said she also supported the six finalists and "I would like to thank all the nominees and apologize to anyone who has had to go through this. It's been an ordeal.
In other business the new state representative who will be serving Oxford in 2013, Ryan Fattman, introduced himself to the board providing a quick overview of his background, experience and plans for the future.
Selectman Lamarche asked Representative Fattman to make the financial distribution for the proposed casino revenue a priority, making sure the money gets pushed back to the towns.
Town Manager Joseph Zeneski reported that after many long hours and persistence Oxford had received a $2.2 million grant from the MassWorks Infrastructure Program. "Thanks to assistance from Senator Richard Moore, the Oxford-Dudley-Webster sewer extension project will go forward," said Zeneski. The construction of a sewer connection will immediately serve IPG Photonics on Old Webster Road and neighboring areas in Webster and Dudley.
The board set May 2, 2012 as the next town meeting date and opted to return the meeting to the High School. The warrant was opened immediately and will close on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 4:30 p.m. The town meeting will begin at 7 p.m.
The Presidential Primary is scheduled for February 6; Oxford Annual Town Election is May 15, 2012 and the State/Presidential Election will be held November 6, 2012. The State Primary is tentatively scheduled for September 18, 2012 pending a final decision by the state due to Rosh Hashanah falling on September 16-18.
- Tuesday, 27 December 2011
- Posted in Categories: : News