Chief sees need to revise staffing
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — City Council got a more in-depth review of the proposed 2015 budget, provided by City Manager Jim Bennett and Monday’s meeting.
“The proposed budget, as submitted, decreases the municipal side of the taxes by 25 cents to establish the six-year average of zero change. The upcoming state budget and how it deals with revenue sharing will be the key to the city’s 2015 budget,” said Bennett.
Bennett explained that, as proposed, the 2015 budget “assumes an additional $353,300 increase over the 2014 budget. If revenue sharing is flat funded, this is the amount of adjustment that will have to be made mid-year” when the state’s budget is finalized.
If revenue sharing is suspended or eliminated, Bennett said $720,973 will need to be adjusted mid-year.
Bennett indicated that while next year’s budget will be adopted before the end of 2014, “adjustments will likely (occur) in May/June 2015, when the state adopts their budget.”
The city manager recommended putting “all budget savings in a contingency account until the state budget is adopted,” as well as “identify aspects that will not be authorized until the state budget” is approved.
This year’s proposed budget is estimated at $10,750,026.
Bennett then reviewed each city department’s expenses, noting increases and decreases — the largest increase — up almost 50 percent from last year— listed under “facilities” was for $38,915, for repairs to heating and cooling systems at the Public Safety Building.
Also on hand for the meeting was Chief Matt Irwin, of the Presque Isle Police Department, making his presentation to councilors a week earlier than planned. Department heads are scheduled to present at next Monday’s Council meeting, but Irwin will be out of town.
Irwin said over the course of the past four years, staff has done a good job seeing the difficulties the city’s had and didn’t ask for things the city couldn’t afford.
He noted a number of changes have occurred in that time frame.
“A lot of transition and turnover has occurred in the course of a year. Right now we have six officers with less than two years (with the department) and four of those with less than one. We have three with 25 years or more who could leave at any time,” said Irwin.
Of those who’ve been to the Police Academy, Irwin said almost all have college degrees to go with it.
“I see our retention as a huge issue, over the course of time; the truth of the matter is the quality of employees we have would be hard to replace over time,” he said.
He said a lot of responsibility has been placed on younger officers.
“We have people born in the ‘90s. When thinking about these kids and the authority given,” that’s a lot for any person, he said.
Irwin said he hopes to get supervisory issues worked out in-house during 2015.
“In 2015 it’s a likely conversation we may have to have that impacts people (of the community). Our investigations have fallen behind. We’re trying to handle with individual officers who are handling their individual case loads,” said Irwin. “The problem is we don’t have the time; the next call comes in and cases get put on the back burner.”
“We currently have someone on staff who was our detective. We went from 19 sworn police officers to 13, including myself (Lucas Hafford is currently at the Police Academy and Tyler Cote is scheduled to attend next year). Dispatchers can’t be cops but cops can be dispatchers — this caused some unintended consequences,” said the chief.
Irwin said as a result of the changes, a detective was put back in the lineup for patrol. “We have in-house knowledge we could use.”
“We’ve had supervisory issues too. Had an instance where a person likely would have been terminated if he hadn’t resigned — that was due to lack of supervision,” he said, noting “when you have a person trying to do the right thing, making those kinds of leaps, but don’t have the staff to do it, things don’t get done.”
Irwin explained that when he took the position as chief, the department was top heavy. But with younger officers on staff and the current sergeants nearing retirement, there’s a need to consider creating more corporals.
“In the end, through attrition, this department would have a chief, something less than a deputy chief — that implies too much administration responsibility — then a variety of corporals” who’d be paid a little extra but not at the sergeant level, said the chief.
Irwin said their was a need for more structured supervision in the department, since the younger officers lack the experience that comes with years on the force.
“When you only have eight months out of the Academy, a lot can go wrong out there,” said Irwin.
City Council will hear presentation from other department heads at the meeting on Monday, Oct. 27, at 6 p.m. at City Hall. For more information, call 760-2785.