MANCHESTER — While saying police response to emergencies here is not a problem, Mayor Earl A. J. "Tim" Warehime Jr. last night changed the way town police answer their phone.
For years, the four-officer police department has relied on an answering machine to handle calls when its small office behind city hall is unattended. Those calls were referred tothe state police in an answering machine message.
In response to concerns about the potential for frustration or difficulty in obtaining emergency police service with such a system, Warehime last night told the Town Council that he was going to have calls to the department automatically forwarded to the town hall during business hours.
After hours, the unattended police department phone still would be answered by an answering machine.
"I want to change the way we do things," he told the council. "We're not doing anything wrong, but I want to make communications as easy as possible."
The call-forwarding will cost $2 a month, and 10 cents a call, Warehime said. A new answering machine also will be bought.
"I want to emphasize that if it's an emergency, people should call 911," he said. "Our line here is for questions, for something minor. This is not alife-or-death situation."
"Well, it could be," Councilman Geoffrey S. Black said.
In Manchester, the Westminster barracks of the state police is responsible for emergency calls when a Manchester police officer is not available.
In other safety-related matters, the council adopted the town's first health and safety policy as part of its first safety program.
The policy, recommended by the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Administration, says the town would make safeguarding its 11 employees an important concern.
Town Projects Administrator David M. Warner wrote the policy, drawing from similar statements in St. Mary's, Charles and other counties.
The policycalls for the mayor and council to eliminate possible safety hazardsto its employees.
"This puts us in line with OSHA and MOSHA and other towns," Warehime said.
In addition to the policy, the town isformalizing its safety training. On Monday, Warner conducted the first of five formal safety seminars.
In addition to MOSHA, the town's liability insurance companies recommended the adoption of the policy.
"Frankly, this town has never had a formal safety program," Warner told the council.
He also said such a program could eventuallylead to slightly lower insurance rates.
Also during last night's hourlong council meeting, the council's work session on the traffic problems on Maiden and Long lanes was scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday.
In other business, the first phase of the town's $11 million sewage treatment expansion was virtually completed at the end of last week, Warner said.
The 250,000-gallon treatment tank -- completed last year -- went on-line last week, doubling the amount of sewage this town can handle.
Warner also said that the second part of what has become a 10-year project should be finished by March.
The second part of the project is the construction of several sewage pumps. About 90 percent of the needed pipeline is complete, Warner said. The secondphase carries a price tag of about $1.2 million.