Fitzwilliam board says ‘no’ to funding armored truck

FITZWILLIAM — The Fitzwilliam Board of Selectmen is pulling out of an agreement with Keene to help fund maintenance for an armored vehicle and to use it in an emergency.

The selectmen informed city officials of the decision earlier this month.

The agreement asked each police department in the county to contribute $100 a year to pay for repairs and maintenance costs associated with a Lenco BearCat Special Missions vehicle — an armored truck made available to the Keene Police Department through a federal Homeland Security grant.

The City Council has approved acceptance of the $285,933 grant to pay for the vehicle, which comes equipped with thermal imaging, off-road capabilities, hazardous gas detection and blast protection.

Fitzwilliam Police Chief Wayne H. Kassotis signed the agreement in October 2010, but without the go-ahead from selectmen, said selectmen Chairwoman Susan S. Silverman.

“The chief did not make us aware he was signing the (memorandum of understanding),” Silverman said, and selectmen became aware of it through a newspaper article.

The board sent a letter to Keene Police Chief Kenneth J. Meola earlier this month, asking that Fitzwilliam be removed from the agreement.

“It’s only $100, but it’s taxpayer money,” Silverman said. “It’s somewhat of a misunderstanding, I guess, but we should’ve been notified.”

Silverman did not rule out revisiting the agreement in the future.

“If we’d been consulted, I don’t know that we would’ve said, ‘Yeah, let’s get in on this,’ ” she said. “But if it were to come to us in the proper process, we’d say ‘OK’ and take a look at it, and hold a public hearing.

“I wouldn’t be doing my job as a selectman if I didn’t give residents a chance to be heard on something like this.”

Kassotis declined to comment on the matter.