Police department seeks addition of social worker, public safety and general services budget overview

  • Concord Police Chief Bradley Osgood File

Monitor staff
Published: 5/23/2023 6:17:50 PM
Modified: 5/23/2023 6:15:20 PM

The Concord Police Department is looking to add a licensed social worker that would help manage issues that don’t require a sworn police officer, like homelessness and mental health. 

As part of the department’s $15.5 million proposed budget, Concord Police Chief Bradley Osgood is asking councilors to authorize $84,200 from the Opioid Settlement Reserve to fund an individual with a Masters of Social Work to advocate for community members who need services.

If approved as part of the city’s $130 million budget, the social worker will work directly with community members to connect them with community resources and human services, like the library, fire department and other city departments, and network with stakeholders like the Friendly Kitchen, Riverbend Community Mental Health and the Coalition to End Homelessness. However, the individual wouldn’t respond to emergencies like a sworn officer. 

“How do you see this in the future?” asked at-large councilor Byron Champlin. “How does this make our system better and how does it possibly relieve part of the burden on our officers?”

Mayor Jim Bouley expressed skepticism of the position and questioned why the department doesn’t work directly with human services. 

There are existing gaps in the system, Osgood responded. The implementation of a social worker will allow the department to follow up with individuals and families after a call and help them utilize city and community services.

“If we can close those gaps and also have a social worker that is embedded with their peers and in different nonprofits, that will certainly be a benefit,” Osgood continued. “There are things the officers are not going to be able to handle but hopefully the social worker can navigate the system better.” 

During public comment, new American Fisto Ndayishimiye expressed his support for the request.

“These are individuals that are going to be working with minority groups, reaching out and helping them connect with police,” he said. “Our police don’t have the time or advantage to learn about the needs of these individuals and these communities and having that social worker in place would mean a lot to these people to get our problems solved.” 

Additional goals of the department include reaching full staff, increasing recruitment efforts, expanding training opportunities, fostering community engagement and implementing a plan for a new police department. 

The department is also requesting $280,000 to fund four new police vehicles, $200,000 for a new roof at the police department and $75,000 for a police station study and site analysis. 

In the second of a series of budget discussions Monday, Concord City Manager Tom Aspell delivered an overview of the spending plan for general government, general services and public safety, which make up 85% of the $77.9 million general fund. Here’s a breakdown:

Fire Department

Due to a shortage in staffing, Concord Fire Chief John Chisholm requested $99,000 to support off-duty training that did not make it into the budget. However, councilors discussed funding a percentage of the request. 

“We used to send people to our training grounds to do live fires but now we have to backfill and hire additional people to get them to the training grounds so they’re uninterrupted,” Chisholm said. “It’s very important because the people we are getting do not have the experience and unless they’re on duty. We have to pay someone to come in and cover them while they’re not paid to go to their training.”

Additional items that did not make it onto the budget included another dispatcher to offset the increase in call volume and a fire inspector that would help the department comply with the state's recommended annual inspection numbers and help with more complex commercial inspections. 

To compensate for the lack of professional help, the department has had to reduce public education and community outreach to limit overtime. 

Without the additional staffing requests, the department will see a 1.2% increase bringing the budget up from last year’s approved budget of $16.4 million to $16.6 million. 

Other goals within the department include developing a committee to address retention, increasing community outreach and involvement and creating a plan to expand the capabilities of the fire training facility to offer external classes. 

Additionally, the department is requested $400,000 for a new ambulance, $897,000 for a new tanker truck, $340,000 for fire station improvements and $340,000 to replace personal protective equipment and hoses. 

General Services

Because of the rising costs for winter treatment supplies and salary increases, the Department of General Services could see a 7.5% increase bringing the budget up from last year’s $10.6 million to $11.4 million. 

Additional cost increases will come from electricity, vehicle maintenance and overtime. 

“Materials, fuel and other elements are associated with that,” Aspell said. “Salt per ton in 2022 was $54 and last year it was $70. Treated materials were about $70 and now they’re about $89. We’re waiting for prices to come in for this year.”

If the winter is milder than expected, the costs budgeted for winter treatment materials will be used to offset overtime costs. 

Additionally, the department is seeking $1.7 million for vehicle replacement in addition to $3.1 million for paving and $1.1 million for sidewalk construction. 

Overview

If approved without changes, the city’s total spending would increase by 5.7% from $123.1 million to $130.1 million. The proposed 3.95% tax increase for residents would mean an extra $108 per year for a home worth $300,000. In addition to budget increases, residents can expect to see a 4.5% increase for city water services and a 5% increase for city wastewater services, which will impact the average resident by $1.12 and $2 a month, respectively. 

Compared to last year, employee compensation increased by more than $2 million – $1.6 million while benefits increase by $446,000. The city used nearly $900,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to pay for employee salaries and benefits to lower the impact on taxpayers. 

Additionally, councilors will be asked to approve a solid waste and recycling adjustment that will increase the small purple bag price from $1.25 to $1.60 and the large purple bag price from $2.50 to $3.20, which will bring an additional $420,000 to the city in revenue. 

On Thursday, councilors will discuss community development, services like the library and parks and recreation and the Capital Improvement Program to i nclude TIF districts; on Thursday, June 1, councilors will discuss special revenue funds to include parking, airport, conservation property, revolving loans, the golf course, the arena and special water and wastewater funds. A proposed final hearing is scheduled to take plane on Monday, June 5, as part of a committee work session, public hearing and budget adoption.


Jamie Costa

Jamie Costa joined the Monitor in September 2022 as the city reporter covering all things Concord, from crime and law enforcement to City Council and county budgeting. She graduated from Roger Williams University (RWU) in 2018 with a dual degree in journalism and Spanish. While at RWU, Costa covered the 2016 presidential election and studied abroad in both Chile and the Dominican Republic where she reported on social justice and reported on local campus news for the university newspaper, The Hawks' Herald. Her work has also appeared in The *Enterprise *papers and the *Cortland Standard *and surrounding Central New York publications. Costa was born and raised on Cape Cod and has a love for all things outdoors, especially with her dog.

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