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Public Safety: the $16.6 million investment

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The Finance Committee launches its review of the FY 2025 budget with a look at police and fire departments


By Mark E. Vogler


SAUGUS – The price of protecting Saugus citizens from the threat of fire, crime and dangerous traffic will increase by $624,529 if the Annual Town Meeting approves Town Manager Scott C. Crabtree’s proposed budget for the 2025 fiscal year, which begins July 1. That amount represents the combined increase of the Police and Fire Departments, which will cost the town $16.6 million next year.

“The most manpower we’ve had in the history of Saugus,” Crabtree told the Finance Committee Wednesday night (March 20), after Assistant Police Chief Ron Giorgetti briefed the committee on the Police Department’s $9.5 million budget and noted that it would provide 70 sworn officers and 10 dispatchers.

Fire Chief Michael C. Newbury told the Finance Committee that his proposed budget of nearly $7 million would provide the town with a full-time fire services staff of 59. Crabtree, a former officer on the Saugus police force, said that the trained firefighting staff was the most in Saugus history.

Finance Committee members seemed pleased with public safety budget briefings they received from Newbury and Giorgetti. Wednesday night’s meeting was the first in a series of budget reviews that the committee will conduct before making recommendations to the Annual Town Meeting, which convenes May 6.

The Finance Committee is scheduled to review the proposed 2025 fiscal year budget for Saugus Public Schools when it meets again next Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the first floor conference room at Saugus Town Hall.

Crabtree has recommended an increase of $141,934 in his proposed Police Department budget for the new fiscal year. That request includes $85,159 in additional funds for the salaries and wages of full-time Police Department personnel, which accounts for $6.2 million of the proposed $9.6 million spending plan for police. This includes salaries for the chief, 10 lieutenants, eight sergeants, 52 patrolmen, one administrative assistant, one principal clerk, one general assistant and a mechanic.

The town manager’s proposed budget includes an increase of $482,595 in the Fire Department budget from the current fiscal year. That request includes $354,026 in additional funds for the salaries and wages of full-time Fire Department personnel, which accounts for $5.4 million of the proposed $7 million spending plan for the fire service. This includes the salaries for the chief, the deputy chief, the administrative assistant, eight captains, 14 lieutenants and the 36 firefighters.


Fire chief highlights his budget

The Saugus Fire Department responded to a total of 5,307 emergency calls during Fiscal Year 2023, according to a report Chief Newbury submitted to justify his budget. He noted that 122 of the calls were in response to fires. There were 3,371 calls for medical aid during the previous fiscal year, which accounted for 64 percent of the total calls for service. False alarms accounted for 747 total runs by the Fire Department – about 14 percent.

“I believe that this budget proposal and the capital improvement requests presented in this report are in the best interest of the Saugus Fire Department, and in turn the entire Town of Saugus,” Fire Chief Newbury wrote in his cover letter to the Saugus Finance Committee.

“I believe that this budget will provide the proper emergency coverage for the entire FY 2025 budget cycle,” he wrote.

Chief Newbury cited these as the key issues addressed in his budget:

  • Focus on state and federal grant opportunities to best manage current inflation.
  • Update the committee on the purchase of both the new pumper and aerial with an emphasis on equipping the apparatus during the purchase process. The chief told the Finance Committee that the tentative completion of the ladder truck is April 2025, and the tentative completion for the pumper truck is June 2026.
  • Address facility improvements through the town’s Capital Improvement Plan.


A budget message from the police chief

In the Police Department Fiscal Year 2025 budget proposal submitted to the Finance Committee, Police Chief Michael Ricciardelli declared, “It is the goal of the Saugus Police Department to not only enforce the laws of the Commonwealth and the bylaws of the town, but to make a significant impact on the quality of life issues of our residents.”

The chief noted that police responded to 20,016 calls for service, made 225 arrests and completed 1,671 Incident Reports. Saugus police responded to 519 motor vehicle accidents and conducted 545 motor vehicle stops and 467 directed patrols. A total of 337 traffic citations were issued and 74 restraining orders were issued.

“With the Covid-19 pandemic behind us, the Saugus Police Department has brought back many of the community engagement programs that were put on hold such as National Night Out, Rail Trail Bicycle Patrols, Essex County District Attorney’s Summer Camp, Post Overdose Opiate Outreach, National Drug Take Back and the many events that we partner with the Saugus Youth and Recreation Department,” the chief said.

“Our hope is that we can find even more ways to engage with the community. We will continue to work with town departments and different groups/organizations within the town in an effort to engage with the community, develop partnerships and proactively address the concerns of the community,” he said.

Chief Ricciardelli noted that $319,190 is budgeted for overtime training. “Training is an investment,” Ricciardelli said in his report.

“One of the best ways to jeopardize an organization’s future in today’s world and increase the probability of troubled times is to look at training as a cost,” he said.

“The price of not providing training or providing substandard training that operates as a Band-Aid for real training requirements is dangerous,” he said.

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