Council’s Tie Vote Denies Police a Traffic Patrol Grant

A divided Town Council put the brakes on a possible grant from the New Hampshire Department of Safety for peak-traffic hour extra patrols.
Police Chief Ed Garone presented the grant at the Nov. 5 Council meeting. The grant, part of Operation Safe Commute, would have given the town more than $5,000 to place extra patrols out at peak hours. But the Council vote was 3-3, and the tie made the motion fail.

Garone said the grant, which the town has received before, is from the federal government and filtered through the New Hampshire Department of Safety. While accidents can occur at any time, Garone said, there is a higher tendency for accidents and distracted driving during the commuting hours, morning and late afternoon. The grant, for $5,616, would allow the department to spend 72 hours of overtime for the single purpose of monitoring traffic during those hours.
“It will cover all costs except fuel for the cruisers and possible litigation from people who contest their tickets,” he said.
The fuel and the court costs are the only impact to the town, he said.
There were no speakers during a public hearing on the grant.
Councilor Mark Osborne said, “It is sometimes easy to vote for approving grants, when the grant provides equipment for police to do their jobs. It is sometimes difficult. No grant is ‘free money.’”
Osborne asked Garone how what the officers do in the patrols differed from what they would be doing on regular patrol.
“These officers are specifically assigned to this duty,” Garone said. “The others go from call to call.” He likened the Safe Commute patrols to special details at a Pinkerton Academy football game.
“They are assigned to that duty,” he said. While they could be pulled off in an emergency, “this is the first priority for those officers.”
Councilor Al Dimmock asked, “Who gets the money from a ticket?”
Unfortunately, Garone said, ticket revenues go back to the state. But it’s not about money, it’s about safety, he added.
The Council had a split vote on applying for and accepting these funds. Councilors Neil Wetherbee and Phyllis Katsakiores voted in favor of accepting the grant, along with Chairman Michael Fairbanks. Dimmock, Osborne and Tom Cardon voted against it. Councilor Brad Benson was not in the meeting at the time of the vote. With a tie, the resolution failed.
Osborne said he voted no because the grant is providing a “duplicate service” and will be using taxpayer money from the rest of the state to finance a job Derry officers are already doing.
Cardon said, “It will cost the town money. If they end up going to court over a ticket, we’ll have to pay for that.”
And Dimmock said, “I can’t see the taxpayers’ money being used for something they’re already paying for.” All three said the patrols would duplicate work the officers are already doing.
“What happens to the money?” Wetherbee asked.
Garone said he would notify the Highway Safety Department of Derry’s vote, and, “presumably the money will be available to some other community.”