Do Connecticut (and Greenwich) taxpayers really need police officers to direct traffic around utility projects?

 to protect and to service

to protect and to service

Of course not, but it's built into law as the result of police unions pressure, just as it is in New Hampshire, where the latest attempt to change that law is doomed to failure.

CONCORD — State lawmakers have once again presented a bill they say would save utility ratepayers millions by curtailing the use of uniformed police officers for traffic control at low-risk work sites.

And like its predecessors, this bill is likely to be defeated after heavy opposition from law enforcement.

More than 60 police officers, mostly from the Manchester Police Patrolman’s Association, formed a line that snaked from the committee room into the lobby of the Legislative Office Building at a recent hearing on HB 193, “relative to traffic control measures.”

The traffic detail work is paid at a high hourly rate and in many cases helps boost retirement income.

Flaggers working for private traffic control companies at a much lower cost would be sufficient in most cases, according to state Department of Transportation guidelines, which are applied on state highways, the largest and busiest roads in New Hampshire.

Past efforts to require municipalities to use the same criteria as the state DOT in assigning traffic control duty have failed. Bradley introduced a bill to that effect in 2015 and in 2012, while a similar measure was introduced and died in the House in 2010.

In Manchester, where the labor contract gives police right of first refusal on all details, Eversource was charged $395,930 for police details in 2014, according to the police department business manager.

In Nashua, where traffic control requests go through the engineering department in Public Works, Eversource was billed $40,113 for police details in 2014 — a difference of more than $350,000 between the state’s two largest cities in one year alone.

NE Traffic Control does work for all the major utilities in the state, charging rates in the $20-per-hour range depending on volume, compared to rates like $50 to $60 an hour charged for police overtime, some of which goes to the municipality for administration and pension contributions.

The potential savings are significant. PSNH spent $2.2 million on traffic control at work sites in 2014, according to company spokesman Martin Murray.

The high costs charged to utilities for police details are passed along to electricity customers, while at the same time reducing the frequency of tree trimming, which contributes to outages, according to Harrington.

“This bill will not only save New Hampshire utility ratepayers millions of dollars a year, but by allowing limited budgets for tree trimming to be spent on more tree trimming and less on traffic control, it will save tens of millions of dollars lost to power outages,” said Harrington.
 

Most of us appreciate the service of our force, but why that gratitude should extend to providing them off-duty extra income at an exorbitant hourly rate has always baffled me.