Brookline board to review vehicle policy

BROOKLINE – The board of selectmen has put off making a decision on its vehicle use policy, voting 3-1 earlier this week to continue fine-tuning the document.

“If we’re not in any rush, is another couple of weeks going to make any difference?” asked Selectman Clarence Farwell, following a brief discussion.

Selectman James McElroy rewrote the policy, incorporating language from similar policies from neighboring towns.

On Monday, McElroy told his colleagues that the policy he had copied and forwarded to them and to town department heads for review was the same one he presented three weeks ago.

“All I did was some cutting and pasting,” McElroy said, after board Chairwoman Linda Saari expressed concern over language in the policy she said distracted from “emergency recall,” the reason for allowing some department heads to drive their town vehicles to and from work.

Saari also questioned whether the costs associated with allowing the police chief to commute 12.5 miles each way, to and from the police department, is higher than McElroy estimated in a report he made to the board several weeks ago.

She said she did not receive a copy of the revised policy, which McElroy presented three weeks ago, until just before the meeting Monday.

Selectmen Kevin Gorgoglione,goglione, who voted against adopting the policy Monday, said the document was cumbersome and reads like federal tax law.

“Not yet,” he said when asked if he would support the policy change.

The user policy that allows emergency personnel to commute to and from work in town-owned vehicles was established to increase response time in the event of an emergency. The town’s fire chief, however, lives less than a quarter of a mile from the fire station and the ambulance director commutes to and from home in Pepperell, Mass., in his private vehicle, equipped with emergency radios.

Some observers have said the move to review the policy targeted Police Chief Thomas Goulden, whose commute in the town-owned cruiser is costing taxpayers $5.56 per day for the 25-mile round trip drive.

The chief has commuted in his cruiser since assuming the top police post 11 years ago.

McElroy calculated that the town is spending $1,444 in fuel this year for the police chief’s commute. It costs the town $12 a year for the fire chief to drive his town-owned vehicle home.

Board members agreed that they would make a decision and “wrap it up” at the next meeting.