The Select Board tackled a mammoth agenda Tuesday night, approving the promotion of two veteran Hopkinton Police Department officers to the rank of sergeant and reviewing fiscal year 2025 budget requests from critical town departments during a nearly four-hour meeting.
The board unanimously approved the promotion of Detective Gregg DeBoer and School Resource Officer Matthew Santoro upon the recommendation of HPD Chief Joseph Bennett.
Bennett’s initial request to promote these two officers was made at the Sept. 5 meeting. It stalled when Select Board chair Muriel Kramer, the Select Board liaison to the Police Department, asked the board to wait. She stressed the need for the departmental review to be completed first. Kramer also said that as the appointing authority, the Select Board should have had an opportunity to ask questions of the promotion candidates at a meeting. The board voted 4-1 to postpone the promotion requests, with Mary Jo LaFreniere as the lone vote in opposition.
The police union slammed this decision in a letter to the board, noting it was an embarrassment not only for the two officers but also for their families who attended the meeting.
Tuesday’s meeting had a more congenial tone. Human Resources Department generalist Kristin Merrill described the search process, which was completed in alignment with the HPD promotional process. Bennett oversaw the process and then made a recommendation based on the officers’ experience in the department and the results of a written test and interview process. The interviews were conducted by Southborough police chief Ryan Newell, HPD Sgt. Detective Scott van Raalten and Jessica Lewerenz, the Human Resources Department’s benefits administrator. The chief also evaluated their job performance.
In his interview before the Select Board, DeBoer, who has been a police officer for 30 years and has served in the HPD for nearly a quarter century, stressed his leadership as a role model for the younger officers. He also has served as union president twice.
He added that he has worked his way up through the ranks, starting as a part-time officer and dispatcher in his hometown of Westborough before serving most recently as an HPD detective.
“I add a lot of depth to the Hopkinton Police Department,” he said, noting that he was chosen for a federal task force. “And through that, I’ve been able to work with the chief, other sergeants and the command staff to help establish policies.”
One accomplishment was when he cracked a case in August regarding a Marlborough man accused of breaking into homes in Hopkinton and at least four other communities. The alleged robber’s distinctive pickup truck led to his arrest.
Santoro has been with the HPD for eight years, now one of the senior members of the force. He currently serves as the school resource officer, building a bridge between the department and young people. Bennett referred to him as “an outstanding officer and a great listener.”
He said he learned from a mentor that officers should treat everyone they serve as if they were someone they care about. Respect and empathy are key traits that have helped him develop trust within the community and the schools.
Santoro also reflected on Hopkinton’s growing diversity, noting that everyone is deserving of respect.
“In fact, I think it’s a positive that we’re getting more diverse and that we’re learning from each other,” he added, “learning different perspectives and maybe learning why people think different ways.”
Santoro described himself as “a silent leader.” He is looking forward to taking on a more active role as a sergeant.
FY 25 budget requests reviewed
Fisca year 2025 budget and capital hearings were held to review the request of the Fire Department, Police Department, Communications Department, Department of Public Works and Engineering/Facilities Department.
Fire Chief Gary Daugherty Jr. noted that the call volume has grown in proportion with the town’s growth. His budget request totaled nearly $3.2 million, an increase of about 3% over the FY 24 budget. Some equipment needed includes a new ambulance at a cost of $520,000 and the replacement of a Lucas 3 CPR machine at $23,382.96 to replace a 10-year-old model.
Bennett noted that the police budget is level funded for operational expenses. He explained that the department’s budget is mainly based on personnel services and contractual obligations amounting to a total impact increase of 5.5% over the previous year’s budget.
A needed HPD expense is for three additional police cruisers to maintain the current fleet for $217,300. A cheaper vendor was found for installation of equipment. Two cars are currently in the shop.
Town Manager transition plan discussed
Town Manager Norman Khumalo is working on a transition plan with the Select Board. Although he is bound by his contract with the town until June, he and the board are working toward a mutually agreeable earlier date.
Longtime Assistant Town Manager Elaine Lazarus will serve in the interim Town Manager role once Khumalo leaves and the search for a new town manager can commence.
Committee appointments approved
The board unanimously voted for Michelle Murdock to serve on the HCAM Board of Directors. Murdock has had a long history of involvement with HCAM.
Applicants Carissa Durfee, Katie Pierce, Siwei (Sarah) Chen and Kanchan Tare were appointed to three-year terms on the Cultural Council.