Lavoie says Nashua PD needs $113K in funding

Chief: We are not fully staffed; OT pay is high

NASHUA – Police Chief Andrew Lavoie may be retiring Aug. 1, but he is not going away quietly.

“As chief of police, I find it ridiculous that we budget by attrition,” Lavoie told members of the city’s Budget Review Committee this week. “And a lot of times at the end of the year, we do it by cutting services.”

Lavoie told committee members his department needs $113,000 more than what Mayor Jim Donchess plans to provide for police via the city’s proposed fiscal 2020 budget. That budget line item shows a planned appropriation of $31.64 million for the police department this year, up from up from the $30.7 million in the budget passed last year.

“When I say we are classically underfunded in our overtime, we spend almost always $500,000 or $600,000 more than our overtime is budgeted – and that is just reality,” Lavoie said later in this week’s meeting. “A lot of it is because we are not fully staffed. If you are not full-staffed, certainly you’ve still got to fill those sectors. But now, you are filling them with overtime at time-and-a-half instead of filling them with an officer on straight time.”

When speaking with The Telegraph about the budget plan last month, Donchess acknowledged the problem of not having enough officers. He said the number the department is supposed to have is 179, but there are vacancies at this time.

“In the Police Department, the major challenge is the number of officers,” Donchess said in March. “They have been down for some period of time, usually because they are not able to fill all the positions.”

Currently, there are seven open positions. They are hiring those two officers next week and hired three additional officers within the past six months.

Lavoie said 95 percent of the money his department receives goes to payroll. He said every other action in the department, all the way down to buying pencils, comes from the base budget.

During significant events in town, whether it be a presidential visit, or the Winter Holiday Stroll, overtime is often required of officers, which then results in the department paying out time-and-a-half for each of those officers putting in extra hours that are necessary for the public’s safety during such instances.

Moreover, Lavoie said a “whodunnit homicide” will cost a minimum of $50,000 or $60,000 in one week alone.

“My people have to get paid and I don’t want to come back here and go, ‘I need more because I couldn’t work with the budget you gave me,”” Lavoie said. “I don’t ever want to do that.”

Lavoie said he discusses overtime daily during the department’s morning meeting when officers hear what overtime occurred, and what it was for in the past 24 hours.

“And you know we average about $30,000 a week in overtime. I mean that’s a lot of money. But if we don’t do that, you know, we can’t fill our sectors,” Lavoie said.

During the meeting, Aldermen Ben Clemons said he wants to have a discussion with Donchess about funding for the police department. He said there are multiple ways that officials should be able to address the problem.

Adam Urquhart may be contacted at 594-1206, or at aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.