Seeking More Police, Council Rejects Budget; Mayor Proposes Alternative

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini in front of Haverhill Police Station. (WHAV News file photograph.)

pay for newsDuring its final review of the mayor’s $185.7 million budget this week, city councilors rejected the spending plan 6 to 3 in a largely symbolic vote advocating improved public safety.

A majority of councilors urged Mayor James J. Fiorentini to hire up to nine more police officers. The mayor agreed to add one more patrolman on top of the two additional he already included in the budget, create a reserve force and add overtime to pay for foot patrols downtown. He said higher than anticipated health insurance savings would pay for his offer. On Wednesday, Fiorentini brought his plan directly to the public.

“That we cut the healthcare budget by $200,000 additional, and we use that money mostly for the police, but for a few additional things too,” he said.

Fiorentini’s budget amendment includes $60,000 in overtime pay for downtown patrols, $40,000 for reserve police officers to work part-time, as needed; and $30,000 for the half-year cost of an additional police officer. He explained it will take a few months to make the extra hire.

Foot patrols would work only Thursday through Sunday, he said.

Adding a reserve list of police officers will speed up the time it takes to fill a vacancy, the mayor said. A similar move with the fire department has proven effective. “We did this to the fire department this year and it helped a tremendous amount. We have a reserve fire list so when a firefighter is either injured and has to retire, or retires, we’re able to go to the reserve list and fill it immediately,” Fiorentini said.

He said the problem isn’t the budget, but the lengthy time it takes to fill openings. Reserves have a shortened training period and can be put to work part-time, as needed. He has also asked the Haverhill Police Patrolman’s Union to agree to allow special police officers, usually already employed in another community, to be used when needed.

Councilor Michael S. McGonagle had proposed adding up to nine more police officers during an earlier review of the police budget.

Haverhill City Councilor William J. Macek.

Haverhill City Councilor William J. Macek.

Councilor William J. Macek, who was joined by members Joseph J. Bevilacqua and Thomas J. Sullivan in supporting the mayor’s plan, explained his endorsement.

“My vote was in favor of the mayor’s proposal because I felt it was a great step in the right direction,” Macek told WHAV.

Macek said he steered away from supporting a much larger hire to keep taxes under control. He explained residential taxpayers were forced to pay more this year because of changes in the way properties are classified. He said he can’t let that happen again. “I am for pretty much no new taxes for residences this coming year. While there may be some, I want it to be as low as possible. I think it’s important Haverhill stay affordable.”

Macek said he also fears cuts in state aid could be coming. If those do not materialize and more money comes to the city, he said officers can be added later.

“I support adding more police officers, but it has to be done without impacting the taxpayers.”

In light of a high-profile murder downtown, the mayor admitted his moves are aimed at improving public “perception.”

“People are concerned. Haverhill is a safe city. We’re going to keep it that way. We’re not going to tolerate the type of violence that we’ve seen. We’re going to do whatever we need to do to keep people safe.”

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3 Comments

  1. Jack Haverhill said:

    In light of a high-profile murder downtown, the mayor admitted his moves are aimed at improving public “perception.”

    Since the stabbing in which the young man died there are at least 50 Haverhill cops walking the streets downtown on Friday and Saturday night. Talk about overkill and incompetent management. As usual, the mayor is always chasing solutions to problems instead of having a competent plan to address them ahead of time. He’s more concerned about how “he” is perceived than the actual safety and well being of the public. An absolutely disgusting comment by a disgusting person.

  2. jack said:

    Gag me. If the councilors believe what the Mayor is saying then they need their heads examined. He’s been contradicting himself for years on this issue. Go back and look at press reports and his comments. He hires 5 cops while 8 have left. He touts the hires but never tells the true story of the NET gain or LOSS which is the norm. Then he talks about the lengthy time it takes for a cop to hit the streets. What is this a big secret ? Pay attention folks !

  3. Dannyboy said:

    Safe city? Did he say say safe city or sanctuary city?
    Guess he’s going to put foot patrol on Rainbow Dr also.
    It’s all about perception and skewing numbers with this mayor. The reality is this mayor is hurting the progress of this city with his bullying tactics. There are several good civic minded people in this city who are seeing the light and what he’s doing.
    It’s all about his legacy, take a look around and it’s one legacy I wouldn’t be to proud of.

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