Swanzey deliberative session

About 50 people attended Swanzey’s annual deliberative session at Monadnock Regional Middle/High School Tuesday.

SWANZEY CENTER — Voters were mostly quiet during Swanzey’s annual deliberative session at Monadnock Regional Middle/High School Tuesday, although the evening did see some debate over fire-truck funding.

Voters also approved increasing the town’s operating-budget proposal from $6,303,000 to $6,330,000 after resident Dan Coffman spoke in favor of raising police-officer salaries. If the budget proposal fails at the polls next month, a default budget of $6,072,735 would go into effect.

“I notice [our police officers] are not the same cats year after year, and my opinion on that is it’s based on our pay scale,” Coffman said. “I don’t think we need to go out and beat Keene ... but I do think that we need to work to reduce our level of turnover.”

Coffman's amendment would allow the town to adjust the planned merit increase for police officers from up to 4 percent — dependent on merit and cost of living — to 6 percent.

Another matter that prompted discussion Tuesday centered on a capital reserve fund for fire trucks, which is included as part of an article encompassing several funds.

Swanzey fire Lt. Brandon West proposed to raise from $5,000 to $80,000 the amount to be added to the fire-trucks fund.

West said one of the department’s trucks is now 20 years old and should be replaced.

The capital reserve fund currently has $217,000 in it, according to Moderator Bruce Tatro. Selectmen estimated Tuesday that a new truck would cost $500,000.

“There used to be $80,000 in that line item, and over the years it’s been reduced,” West said. “I’m making a motion to have that back to $80,000 so that we can stay on track with replacing the trucks that we have coming up on age.”

But Steven Bittel, chairman of the town’s Capital Improvements Program Committee, said he was angered by West’s statement, noting the committee has addressed the fire department’s financial needs over the past seven years.

After working with the department, the committee was under the assumption the trucks should be lasting 30 years, he added.

“Every need that I know of of the fire department for equipment and trucks has been taken care of,” he said. “You have been dealt a very generous hand ... this upsets me greatly, and I am strongly opposed to it, as is CIPC.”

West’s proposed amendment was seconded, but was voted down by those in attendance.

The rest of the night remained calm, with no other amendments to the articles, which will now move to the March ballot. The two-hour session brought in about 50 of the town’s 4,669 registered voters, a turnout of about 1 percent.

Also up for voters’ consideration this year, but generating no discussion Tuesday night, is funding for a new $3.95 million fire station. An article asking to fund a school resource officer in the Monadnock Regional School District drew limited discussion.

Swanzey residents will select town officers and vote on the entire warrant at the polls on March 10 at Christian Life Fellowship Church at 211 Whitcomb Road. Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

This article has been updated to correct Dan Coffman's last name.

Olivia Belanger can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or obelanger@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @OBelangerKS.