Budget Calls for More Police and Firefighters in Watertown

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Watertown will have more police officers and firefighters on duty with the Fiscal 2015 budget getting a boost from federal grants.

The budget presented by Town Manger Michael Driscoll on Tuesday includes funding for a new police officer, as well as funding to cover the town’s matching portion for three positions funded by a grant.

In May the Police Department will apply for the COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) Hiring Program run by the U.S. Department of Justice. The federal grant covers 75 percent of the salary for a police officer for three years. The town covers the rest and must keep the officer on for at least a year after the program ends, Driscoll said.

The new positions would bring the total sworn officers to 69, with 51 on patrol. One of the new officers will be a school resource officer at Watertown Middle School, Driscoll said.

The Watertown Fire Department has already received a SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) Grant awarded by FEMA. The $625,000 will pay to hire four firefighters for two years, with no match from the town. The program requires no firefighter layoffs during those two years.

The Fire Department will seek to hire four paramedic/firefighters with the SAFER Grant in order to provide advances life support service (ALS) to Watertown. Currently, the town uses out-of-town based ambulances for ALS, with Watertown firefighters providing basic life support (BLS).

By having ALS trained firefighters in the department, Driscoll said response times for medical emergencies will be reduced.

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