Hearing set for refit of Montville police, fire departments

Montville - The town will hold a public forum Monday night to discuss its public safety deficiencies and improvements recommended for the fire and police departments.

Almont Associates, a consultant, is scheduled to give a presentation at the forum on a 147-page report it prepared on the town's public safety operations. The town paid $46,000 for the report.

It concluded the town should create its own police force because the current department, which operates under the resident state trooper program, is "trapped in a time warp." It also argues for the hiring of a professional police chief.

The report also said the town should consolidate its four fire companies into a unified department to better meet the needs of its growing population. The department would need a new director of fire services to oversee operations, the report said.

The report has been the source of contentious deliberations among town councilors. The council voted 4-3 in January to authorize the town to hire the consultant. Some councilors have argued that the report's findings and suggestions will be beyond the scope of what the town can afford.

Town Council Chairwoman Candy Buebendorf said last month it is important for the council to identify what's doable for the town. The forum, a joint meeting of the council and the Public Safety Commission, will be the start of that effort, she said.

The report argued the police department needs serious changes in part because it is the largest in the state to rely on a resident state trooper program. In that program, the town pays for a state police trooper to supervise police operations. The program was established in 1947 for small towns to avoid expenses such as running their own jails.

The report also says the town has grown too large for the mayor to act as chief of police, a provision of the town charter, and recommends hiring a new chief at a salary of approximately $100,000 per year.

The director of fire services should make about $65,000 annually, the report said. This director would help lessen the responsibilities of Fire Marshal Raymond Occhialini, who the report said has too many duties for one person.

The forum was originally scheduled for Oct. 29 but was postponed because of Hurricane Sandy. Tom Weber, a former fire chief in Manchester, is president of Almont Associates, the consulting company based in Port Orange, Fla., that preparedthe report.

Weber said he has prepared a short presentation for the forum and will take questions from councilors and the Public Safety Commission members.


If you go

What: Meeting on the town's new public safety plan
When: 6:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Town Hall


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