Opinion: Brandon voters must offer ideas on budget impasse

Does Brandon need eight police officers? No. Does Brandon need four highway guys? No. Brandon could do with less; however, just as there is a cost to employing that number of staff there is a cost to not having enough staff. Chief Brickell told the selectmen at a recent meeting the effects of less than eight police officers. And in reality there are seven officers and a school resource officer that Brandon uses during the down school time.
Now let’s take a stroll down memory lane. As a child we had at least four public works staff. During one particular summer I rode with the guys while they rebuilt Maple Street at the Union Street end from all the flooding the Neshobe had done. Besides this they took care of other road issues and public works issues. At that time I know Brandon didn’t have the amount of road mileage it does now.
The demand for better roads and faster snow removal and other issues drive the demand for four men at a minimum. When I was on the board 20-plus years ago we had five highway workers. However, apparently now Brandon because of layoffs will be forced to do with less and the infrastructure will suffer even more. Two years now for no sidewalks in Brandon. Way to go.
As to the police department, I rode with the officers on weekend nights generally once a month. I got a good look at what happens and why it happens. And the drug issues in Brandon weren’t what they are today. I also saw the amount of paperwork it took to process someone. Along with what happens when an individual gets lodged at the correctional center, which at times the alleged offender was hitchhiking back to town before the officer is even done with the paperwork.
As to the drug issue in Brandon, many want the problem handled better. Unfortunately because of the constraints the department works under this is not as simple as it seems. It takes a while to build these cases. Then there is routine patrols of 70-plus miles of roads in Brandon along with various agency assists as needed. Yes, I know the police are an easy target to become the “whipping post” in towns. Now when I was in school … oh yeah, different time and laws and so on. Yes, things change.
The questions aren’t what does Brandon need for staffing levels as much as what does Brandon want and how much can she pay for said levels of staffing. Along with that, do the residents feel they are getting their monies worth for the tax dollars they pay? Good lord, look at the two school budgets and that should give you an excellent idea as to the answer to these questions.
However, I have talked with people both for and against the budget and some say cut the police or the highway staff and yet others say no. So what is the answer? Well in part I don’t think the recent boards have listened to the public when it comes to employee benefits. Or last year’s budget issues either. And according to a recent letter by Steve Cjika, an employee of the town, staff was willing to accept a co-pay for insurance. The town’s negotiating team apparently said no, we will pay the entire freight.
Oh, and let’s not forget that wonderful federal revenue sharing towns used to get either. Ah, the beauty of accepting free money which isn’t really free in the end.
Many factors have contributed to the current situation. And it is easy to sit back and cast blame here and there. As I have said before, if you think you can do a better job, then run for office. Lately nobody apparently has felt they could do a better job, though. So cuts in highway department, along with a deficit and other factors, make for an interesting decision by voters.
I can’t decide for you or vote for that matter. I just ask that before you vote be as informed as possible. And while it is not for those who have voted no in the past to offer suggestions, it might just help move the process along a little faster. And everyone needs to become and stay involved in the processes.
Brian Fillioe

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