By Douglas Moser
---- — METHUEN — Mayor Stephen Zanni said he planned to eliminate one captain's position inside the police department in the next budget, and in the meantime will not recommend to hire or promote to fill the spot vacated by retired Capt. Thomas Fram last fall.
The move will reduce the number of police captains to three, down from a high of five several years ago. There have been four over the last few years.
Solomon said yesterday that he would work with however many captains the city council chose to fund, though would make the case for more personnel if he felt the department required it.
Zanni said yesterday that he did not think the police department needs a fourth captain. "I don't think it's needed at that time. We had three captains for a number of years," he said.
He said he is looking at other communities similar in size to Methuen to compare police forces.
Fram retired in November, and no one has been promoted or hired to fill that vacancy. Zanni said he planned to recommend the captain budget line in the budget be reduced to three.
When he left the department, Fram earned a base salary of roughly $125,000, including a college stipend.
"I understand the city's reasons and the restraints," Solomon said yesterday. "Regardless of whether there are no captains or 10 captains, we'd do the job the city requires of us."
The chief said he is in the process of reviewing the responsibilities and job descriptions of all employees in the department top to bottom, a process he said occurs every few years. Zanni also made a request that every city department do the same several months ago.
That review, Solomon said, is to determine whether existing job descriptions fit with the department's and the city's needs.
Zanni said department heads have provided him with organizational charts and job descriptions as part of his review request. No other positions are specifically targeted at this time, but the mayor said others could be cut as the review process moves forward.
Lt. Greg Gallant, president of the Methuen Police Superior Officer Association, said he wanted to work with Zanni to resolve any issues and ensure the city has appropriate police coverage.
"We believe the position should be filled. The union's belief is the captain's position is key to maintaining accountability and performance in the department," he said yesterday. "However we understand the mayor is approaching this as a citywide budget issue he needs to resolve. The majority of our union members are not only officers, but citizens and taxpayers in the city of Methuen."
Last month, in response to a question by Councilor Joyce Campagnone, Zanni said he wanted to institute a hiring freeze. Yesterday, the mayor clarified, saying he meant no new positions would be created, but open positions will be filled.
Also in response to Campagnone's questions, Zanni said he still planned to hire a new chief of staff to take over from Nancy Colbert Puff, who left in November to become town manager in Kittery, Maine.
Promotions and hiring in the police department ultimately rests with the City Council, which receives the mayor's recommendations. The chief of police can make recommendations to the mayor.
This fiscal year, which began July 1, 2013, and runs to June 30, the council approved $411,264 for four captains.
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