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Cornish: Voters Boost Pay for Police

Cornish — Police Chief Doug Hackett and his officers will receive their requested pay raises after Town Meeting voters overrode the advice of the Selectboard and approved increases that the Police Department failed to secure in budget negotiations.

Results of the Selectboard race between incumbent Larry Dingee and Scott Baker were not available as of press time.

Residents went along with every one of the spending articles the board recommended with little discussion, save one: The police budget.

When the Selectboard began crafting its proposed budget several weeks ago, Hackett asked that his pay rise from $17.39 to $20 an hour, and his officers’ from $15.61 to $19.

He argued that Cornish officers are at the lower end of the pay scale in Grafton and Sullivan counties, and said he was concerned about the ability to recruit officers in the future.

Seeking to hold down costs, the board instead agreed to $19 an hour and $18 an hour, and told Hackett he could come back in future years and request more.

“I feel we met in the middle,” Selectman John Hammond said during the 41/2-hour Town Meeting, which was held inside the Cornish Elementary School’s gymnasium.

Hackett, a part-time chief, told the crowd of roughly 100 residents that he was satisfied with the Selectboard’s proposal, though still frustrated.

“It was very discouraging to feel like you had to beg for the pay raise,” Hackett said. “(But) I would probably do this job for $8 an hour because it’s what I do and because I love the town and I love the Police Department.”

But voters wanted to go further, and Leo Maslan proposed a successful amendment to add $2,000 to the $70,000 police budget to fulfill Hackett’s initial request of $20 for the chief and $19 for his officers.

“For the job they do, I can’t imagine doing it for what they are currently earning,” Maslan said.

Not everyone was convinced.

“I appreciate what Doug is saying. However, I think it is inappropriate of us to override the decision of our (Selectboard), the people who put together the budget,” Jim Neil said.

But Maslan’s amendment was approved in a voice vote by a comfortable margin, and the new budget passed unanimously.

In an interview afterward, Hackett, who works full time as a dispatcher in Hanover, said he was gratified by the support.

“I don’t do it for the money — the money is nice, don’t get me wrong — but to be able to attract somebody, you can’t offer $15 an hour,” Hackett said.

Voters were in a giving mood yesterday. They tacked on $10,000 to the Highway Department budget, bringing it to $493,000 to buy extra gravel, and passed all other spending articles, including a combined $376,000 for general town operations, with little debate.

It just took a little more time than many towns require.

Unlike most towns, Cornish casts separate votes on every department’s budget.

The warrant required 49 separate votes, most of which ended with a languid “Aye,” being voiced by everyone in the crowd.

Moderator Gwyn Gallagher tried to stir voters out of their torpor. When a $2,000 appropriation for the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission was proposed, he tried to provoke some debate.

“Anybody have any questions — what they do, what we get for our money?” Gallagher asked.

No one did.

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