By Tracy F. Seelye, Express editor
WHITMAN — The Whitman Police Department welcomed two new sergeants to the ranks Tuesday night with the promotion of officers Matthew Kenealy and David Gregory.
Both were sworn into their new rank by Town Clerk Dawn Varley during the Board of Selectmen’s meeting Aug. 19.
Kenealy, who joined the department in 2000, serves as the WPD armorer and is a member of the SWAT team. In noting that Kenealy became a police officer in the same year as Deputy Chief Tim Hanlon and Lt. Christine May-Stafford — who served as chief for four years — Chief Scott Benton quipped that they have made a mark for themselves in the department as well.
Gregory had served as an auxiliary officer from 1986 to July 2004 when he was appointed a full-time officer. He is one of the department’s certified motorcycle officers.
“Without the auxiliaries the department and this town would not run as well as they do,” Benton said.
The board voted 4-0 to make the appointments, before they were sworn in, Kenealy first to establish seniority, and then Gregory. Selectman Brian Bezanson was absent.
Kenealy’s parents Bill and Cindy and his fiancée pinned on his badge. Gregory was pinned by his wife Lisa, daughter Samantha and his parents Anthony and Barbara.
“The first in-service class I’m going to send you to is “Silence is Golden,” Benton joked after the ceremonies.
Benton and Fire Chief Timothy Grenno also gave their monthly reports on their departments’ activities.
Benton reported the department has responded to 6,175 calls so far this year, compared with 6,322 at this time last year. He also shared a complimentary email concerning officer Gary Nelson’s actions in helping retrieve the $400 prescription glasses stolen from a resident’s daughter.
He also noted a change in how domestic assaults are reported in the police logs. A law signed by Gov. Deval Patrick designates some crimes as similar to sexual assaults in how they are reported and Benton has begun redactions accordingly.
“It was done for a number of reasons, but one of them I’m sure is it probably exacerbated things — after things cooled down — for somebody to see their name in the paper,” he said.
Residents interested in having a radar trailer placed on their street — especially in view of the Aug. 27 start of the school year — should call the station at 781-447-1212 to make a request.
Grenno reported the Fire Department is conducting its annual apparatus service and certifications cycle. Since Jan. 1, WFD has done 1,614 emergency runs. Last year at this time there were 1,619. Grenno said the miniscule difference was surprising as there were no significant storms “which usually jack our calls up by 200-300 runs.”
According to Grenno, 60 percent of the emergency runs were medical calls and of those, 58 percent were for behavioral or psychiatric issues. Another 35 percent were cardiac issues. The busiest days for runs over the past three years have been Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Busy times are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. — with 1 to 2:30 p.m. the busiest of those hours.
Ambulance revenues are also up with $74,000 coming in during July alone.
Both chiefs spoke of the Thursday, Aug. 14 rollover on Franklin Street in which three people were seriously injured.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on how well the fire and police departments work together,” Grenno said. “If it wasn’t for the help of the on-duty police officers that evening it would have been more difficult for us to handle the situation.”
In other business, Selectmen voted 4-0 to accept DPW Superintendent Bruce Martin to reduce the trash/recycling pickup fee for fiscal 2015 from $250 for the year to $225.
“It appears we had a surplus in that line of over $106,000,” Town Administrator Frank Lynam said. “On that basis, he’s recommending that we reduce the fee.” Lynam said he and the Finance Committee chairman are concerned that the volatility of the market may cause a seesaw effect in the future.
“I reluctantly recommend it because I have concerns about how it fits the overall budget for the town,” Lynam said. The surplus becomes part of the excess funds that bankroll capital purchases.
“Apparently people are listening and recycling and we need to show them that what we said would happen will happen and we’d be able to reduce the fee,” said Selectman Daniel Salvucci.