ELLSWORTH — More money for training, uniforms, overtime and specialty dog food are just a few of the items on the list for the proposed Police Department budget for fiscal year 2020, according to a presentation from Ellsworth Police Chief Glenn Moshier on May 6 and figures provided by the city.
He has asked for $1,376,212 to run his department next year, up 5.17 percent over this year.
“That’s a direct reflection of the young officers we have,” said Moshier, referring to the need for new uniforms and training.
The $300 increase in the canine budget is due to food costs for the department’s K-9 officer, said Moshier, who “has to have a special diet and the dog food is very expensive.”
The chief said he is also anticipating overtime pay for employees covering for several department members who are out with “pretty serious injuries.”
“Law enforcement is a dangerous business and it’s inevitable that someone is going to get hurt,” he said.
In his presentation to city councilors, Moshier said he has proposed funding for another police officer, although he noted that the department is fully staffed.
“We don’t have an active vacancy,” said Moshier, but “part of the thought process would be that for eventual vacancies we would have additional manpower to help with our shortages and help to offset exorbitant overtime.”
The week of his presentation alone, Moshier said, he had 120 hours of potential overtime due to officer injuries.
“We only filled 67 of it,” he said. “We want to try and get away from overworking these people. They get burnt out and their productivity goes in the tank. It’s not good for anybody. It’s good for their paycheck and that’s about it.”
New police cruisers, guns
The department’s proposed capital improvement budget is $106,846 for fiscal year 2020, down half a percent from last year. (Capital improvements are categorized separately from the $1.37-million department budget.)
The budget includes funding for two new police cruisers and dash-mounted cameras. Moshier also has asked for roughly $5,000 to switch the department’s sidearms from the .40-caliber Glock pistols that officers have been carrying to a new Glock 9-millimeter model.
The department experimented with several 9-millimeter models sent by the company, said Moshier, similar to those the federal government and Hancock County Sheriff’s Office now use. The ammunition is cheaper and the guns are more accurate, Moshier said.
“We were very impressed with the overall performance and increased accuracy.”
Radio “blind spots,” overloaded dispatcher
A draft of the dispatch budget is up 8.37 percent, to $207,577. The chief told councilors that dispatch is struggling to keep up with increased call volume, which is up 160 percent since 2014.
The department has one dispatcher on duty, said Moshier, and last year that person handled 38,560 phone calls — not including dealing with visitors who walk up to the dispatch window in City Hall. (That is an average of 106 phone calls per day.)
Moshier asked for funding for a backup dispatcher/administrator to come in on weekdays as well as money to reconfigure the space so a second dispatcher can work there in case of a “significant emergency.”
“We’d have the capacity to have someone else sit in,” Moshier said.
Although he did not include a funding request for it in this budget, Moshier also told councilors that the department is in need of a different radio communication system.
The 30-year-old analog radios the department works with now often have “blind spots” inside buildings, said Moshier, including sometimes in the hospital and schools.
“We had a pretty scary moment with the current system back in the fall,” Moshier said. “We had a bomb threat at hospitals and lost all radio communications.”
The problem was later found to be an “electronic one,” said Moshier, and was fixed, but he said there are still issues with tower maintenance and old technology.
Two more budget workshops are scheduled to be held at City Hall in the council chambers. On May 13 at 6 p.m., councilors will discuss budgets including the general assistance, social service agency requests and the Wastewater Department budget. On June 3 at 6 p.m., councilors will hold a final budget overview. The meetings are not televised.