Amendment to cut Croydon police budget fails
CROYDON — Voters in Croydon asked many questions about the operation of their police department and in return were provided with many answers by Police Chief Richard Lee and members of the Board of Selectmen at the annual Croydon Town Meeting Saturday morning.
Some also took the opportunity to express their displeasure at how Lee and the department operate.
In the end of a lengthy period of discussion, voters decided against an amendment to cut the police department budget from $37,797 to $22,388 on a secret ballot vote of 33-20. The main motion then passed on a voice vote with only four or five negative responses heard.
“You never see any police presence when vehicles pass the school at 50 miles per hour in the morning,” one citizen said.
A petition signed by seven citizens requested the secret vote.
“I want to know why five or more people can say they want a secret ballot when there are 75 to 80 people here,” said Selectman James Peschke.
“It’s the law,” responded Moderator Willis H. Ballou.
“We have two issues here. Do we need less coverage or is this an issue with the police chief? I’d like to know which one we have here,” said Selectman George Caccavaro.
“We’ve never had a police officer as professional and well trained as Richard. It’s an appointed position; go to the selectmen if there is a problem,” said David Shackett, a Croydon resident.
Later in the meeting Lee read from two pages of prepared notes he had drafted prior to the meeting.
“If you knew what’s going on in Croydon, you wouldn’t cut the budget,” Lee said.
Lee started working 15 hours a week in Croydon in 2000 while still a member of the Newport Police Department. He retired from his Newport job in 2006. Over the years his hours increased to 24 and then 34.
Lee said he is on-call and receives no overtime pay.
“Ninety percent of a law officer’s time is paperwork,” he said. "Nobody knows how many calls we get at home.”
Lee said the hours he spent with coverage at the Croydon Town Meeting Saturday morning and the Croydon School Meeting in the afternoon were all over his 34-hour schedule.
During the discussion a Croydon resident complained that she couldn’t get through to Lee on the telephone “because he does not empty his answering machine. I could never get in touch with him.”
According to Carol Marsh, a member of the Croydon Board of Selectmen, any complaint a Croydon resident may have will be heard by the board behind closed doors.
“If it involves the police department, Richard Lee will not be in the building,” she said.
“This has deteriorated rapidly into a Lee issue. I don’t think a request for less time is an indictment of Officer Lee. It is based on what Croydon needs, not what you think of Officer Lee,” Peschke stated.
“Lee was hired because he was a professional,” said Selectman Jim Harding.
At the outset of the meeting, voters approved the operating budget of $419,572 for general municipal operations, up $1,344 over the 2016 budget.
By approving Article 14 the selectmen were authorized to sell a one-acre plot of land located on Ryder Corner Road acquired by tax deed.
A Bridges Capital Reserve Fund of $10,000 was established.
Utilizing $37,158 from the Highway Block Grant, the highway department will level and apply a base coating on sections of Cash Street. Several other roads in need of upgrading were also mentioned by residents.
Selectmen will study a request submitted by petition that would allow ATV/UTV travel on sides of designated town roads posted for 35 mph or less.
During ballot voting on Tuesday, March 14, Marsh defeated Joseph Marko, 44-14, for a three-year term on the Board of Selectmen.