New Ipswich proposal would combine fire chief, inspector

New Ipswich Police Chief Mike Abel speaks on the need to offer competitive benefits to employees during a budget hearing Tuesday night.

New Ipswich Police Chief Mike Abel speaks on the need to offer competitive benefits to employees during a budget hearing Tuesday night. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

New Ipswich Select Board Chair Shawn Talbot reviews the warrant during a public hearing on Tuesday.

New Ipswich Select Board Chair Shawn Talbot reviews the warrant during a public hearing on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 01-17-2024 10:53 AM

Modified: 01-19-2024 10:23 AM


New Ipswich voters will decide this March whether to create a new position combining the duties of fire chief, building inspector and code enforcement, all of which are currently stipend positions.

During the town’s budget hearing Tuesday, the board reviewed all warrant articles, including the budget, set this year at approximately $3.36 million. Should the budget fail, the default budget is $3.26 million, which represents the current budget, plus any contracted or legally obligated increases and minus any one-time costs.

Article 16 requests the creation of the new position, and $52,000 for a half-year’s salary and benefits. Gary Somero, the town’s current fire chief and building inspector, said he would stay on in the stipend positions until July 1, and then the town plans to use a committee to search for a full-time replacement. The fire chief’s current annual stipend is $11,400, and the building inspector’s annual stipend is $15,200.

Select Board Chair Shawn Talbot said that the positions were “all severely underpaid,” and the current amount of hours that they allowed “can’t give enough support for the community.”

Another article which would affect town employees is a petition article submitted by Becky and Alan Doyle that would require town employees to contribute no less than 25% of the cost of their health, dental, vision and life insurance premiums through the town. Currently, employees pay 15% of premiums, although the town does not offer vision coverage, according to Talbot.

Becky Doyle said town employees seem to pay “ a fraction of what the average individual pays,” and that that the increase in premiums would “put things in perspective.”

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Police Chief Mike Abel said he didn’t support the change, noting that the town has been working hard to try to attract employees.

“It’s important to have competitive benefits,” Abel said.

In other Fire Department-related articles, the town is looking to refurbish a donated 2007 Spartan Fire Engine for a cost of $227,000, with the money coming from capital reserves. Somero said the refurbishment should extend the life of the truck by another 10 years, and will replace the town’s 2002 rescue truck. Somero said the town looked at refurbishing the 2002 truck, but said it would be a more-expensive endeavor. Using the Spartan engine, the town will have 10 years to save for a new replacement vehicle.

Another article expand the purpose of the Fire Department Capital Reserve to include “the purchase of new, used or donated fire apparatus or to refurbish the same, and to authorize the Select Board to expend funds from the reserves for the Fire Department and Fire Department Protective Equipment.” Changing the purpose of a reserve account requires a two-thirds vote.

The town is seeking to create two new funds, one for the town’s 275th anniversary planning and to place $5,000 in the fund, and the other to close the Green Center revolving account and place the remaining funds in a new expendable trust. 

Other items on the warrant this year include two articles for road repairs, one for $350,000 and the other for $250,000. Selectman Jason Somero said the intent for the funds is to topcoat roads that were reconstructed last year, as well as to place a base coat on Wilson Hill Road.

A total of $366,000 is anticipated to be placed in the town’s various capital reserves and expendable trusts. Resident Alan Doyle requested the town review the names and purposes of the town’s capital reserve funds, noting that at least one, the Police Department capital reserve, was as recently as 2020 specified to be for cruiser replacement.

For a full list of all warrant articles and a comprehensive budget, visit the New Ipswich town website, newipswichnh.gov. All items on the warrant will be discussed and the public may offer amendments during the town’s deliberative session on Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. at Mascenic Regional High School. Voting on all issues will take place on March 12 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. at the Mascenic Regional High School gym.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.