Fiorentini Unveils $201 Million Spending Plan; Four Patrolmen Move from Dispatch to Street

Haverhill Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro, right, makes a point during 2018 budget talks. Deputy Chief Anthony Haugh, left, and Mayor James J. Fiorentini, back, listen. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini says his proposed $201 million city budget puts four more police on the street, increases school spending by the amount the superintendent requested and gives the library enough money to win accreditation.

The mayor told city councilors last night the police department will drop 10 to 15 officers this year because of retirements. He added, it is difficult to fill the jobs because they city must wait for lists from Civil Service.

“I propose that we add four new civilian dispatchers in this budget, allowing us right away—without waiting for Civil Service—to put four police officers back on the street where we need them the most,” Fiorentini said.

Haverhill Police Patrolmen’s Association President Rick Welch told WHAV this is the second time the union has agreed to civilian dispatchers.

“We hope three to four officers, who are already employed and working as patrol officers, will be moved from dispatch to help alleviate these vacancies. It’s a response by our union to offer some minimal relief to officers who are currently forced to fill these open shifts seven days a week, often unexpectedly.”

However, Welch warns, when the union traded away one to two dispatchers a decade ago, the number of patrolmen actually dropped. “Last year, our union agreed to the implementation of an ‘all civilian’ police dispatch center, done in good faith and with the hopes that we may actually fill some of the numerous vacancies in patrol and detectives.”

Councilor Melinda E. Barrett said she discovered the total number of budgeted patrolmen had dropped by one, but an additional sergeant was added. Welch also noticed, telling WHAV, “This seems like a shell game, and I consider it almost offensive to the city councilors and the police department who fought so hard to add positions in the last two years in order to combat the opiate epidemic and gang crimes in our city.”

Welch said another sergeant is a nice goal, but “it seems like common sense that the need for more supervisors requires more patrol officers or employees to supervise.”

The spending plan for the year that begins next month was generally well received by city councilors. The budget also calls for using four fire department civilian dispatchers, expanding a downtown maintenance worker from part-time to full-time and additional night and weekend hour for code enforcement inspectors.

Councilors will spend the next few weeks reviewing the budget and possibly making cuts. Under the city charter, the City Council cannot normally add money to the budget.

As WHAV previously reported, the mayor plans to use half of the city’s so-called “free cash”—or about $5 million—to balance the budget. The total is up 3.2 percent from the current year—or about an extra $6.2 million.

Comments are closed.