On tonight’s Select Board agenda is follow up on a staffing request made by the Chief of Southboough Police earlier this month.
Police Chief Kenneth Paulhus described to the Board and Advisory Committee an urgent need for increasing the full time Dispatcher staff. He is looking to up the number from 4 to 5.
The request, on the heels of a Special Town Meeting and learning about a projected increase in residents’ property taxes, was met with dismay and frustration. Select Board members were upset to not have an earlier heads up on a purportedly dire need. They had believed that adding two officers over 2020-2021 satisfied the departments’ needs long term staffing needs.
Chief Paulhus explained that his need was a result of the changes in the hiring market. It has been increasingly difficult to fill positions when they lose a staff member. The position requires certain training and they are competing with other departments for qualified personnel.
In past years, part time dispatchers had been willing to step up and put in more hours when needed. That’s no longer the case. Instead, the Chief had been forced to compel officers to fill in the extra hours this fall. He worried about the department being crippled if resignations or long term leave left them with two vacancies to cover.
In the November 3rd meeting, references were made to the Town’s research into a regional Dispatch center. Paulhus noted that it is an effort that appears to be years out. His need to maintain the 24 x 7 staffing is immediate.
Advisory Chair Kathy Cook expressed hope that they could find funding in the existing budget rather than using the Reserve Fund. She asked both Paulhus and Fire Chief Steven Achilles to take another look at their budget and the use of PILOT funds donated by Harvard University for public safety expenses.
Select Board members asked for Paulhus to provide more detail on the staffing need and expense.
For much more detail, you can read the Community Advocate’s coverage here.
Materials on the topic were included in this week’s meeting packet. You can see those here.