The City Council’s Budget and Appropriations Committee Wednesday sat down with Police Chief Joseph Gaudett and members of his staff to pick apart the proposed 2013-14 cop budget.
The group is trying to find ways to cut Mayor Bill Finch’s average, $400 tax hike.
Weighty topics, such as police staffing, overtime and sick leave were discussed at length Wednesday with Gaudett. But the council scrutiny inevitably always leads to interesting discussions with various department heads on quirkier areas of the budget as well.
At one point Wednesday Councilman John Olson, D-132, suggested perhaps the police force no longer needs seven horses.
“I love the horses (but) is this something we can afford to do?” Olson said.
Gaudett left no doubt how he feels about the horses, the six officers who take care of and ride the animals, and the unit’s contributions to law enforcement.
“Our mounted unit is not ceremonial,” Gaudett said.
From handing out speeding tickets (yes, it happened, said Gaudett) to crowd management (“Nobody talks back to a horse”) the chief insisted the mounted cops are invaluable to his department.
At another point in the discussion, Gaudett suggested another potential area for cost savings – his $50,000 budget for the sandwiches and milk fed to prisoners.
Turns out that for years the department put the contract out to bid and, for years, only one restaurant came forward – Frankie’s Diner.
Gaudett said his staff has suggested instead using the public schools’ in-house food service, which could halve the $50,000 price. However the department would need to invest in a refrigerator.
The council appeared interested.