GUILFORD—Windham County Sheriff Keith Clark visited the Selectboard at its June 22 regular board meeting to introduce himself to the new members, and to discuss the increase in the contract price his department charges the town.
The original agreement was for the Sheriff’s Department to patrol Guilford 1½ hours responding to calls, and 6½ hours for traffic enforcement, every month, at a rate of $4,000 per month. Clark now seeks $4,608 for the same services.
“I think we can probably absorb the increase,” Selectboard Chair Anne Rider told Clark. The rest of the board agreed, and unanimously voted to pay the Sheriff Department the amount it requested.
Clark told the Board he realizes the increase is a challenge for the towns he serves, because the towns did not expect the higher rates when they made their budgets for the fiscal year.
Clark said the increase is because of two things he discovered while examining the Sheriff’s Department’s finances: his department has been undercharging towns, and it has experienced unanticipated increases in costs.
One item Clark said caught him by surprise was his workers’ compensation insurance.
“We have not had a workers’ comp claim in the nine years I’ve been Sheriff,” Clark said, noting he has worked hard to train his staff and ensure they are operating in the safest manner possible.
Still, Clark said, his insurance had gone up, and when he asked his insurance agent why, he was told it was because the entire Vermont pool had gone up.
Clark told the Selectboard, “we are looking for ways to save money, and if we can find those savings, we will pass that on to the towns.” He assured them, “I’m not looking to get rich off the backs of the towns.”
In addition to explaining the increase, Clark also recommended the town expand patrol hours with the Sheriff’s Department, and possibly pool together with other area towns to “increase buying power.”
Board member Gabrielle Ciuffreda asked Clark how many patrol hours he recommended for a town the size of Guilford, taking into consideration the “deterrent factor.”
Clark said 8 to 12 hours per week would give his department “more presence” as well as more flexibility in assigning deputies to Guilford. He explained the increase would allow the deputies to gain experience in the town and allow them greater opportunity to get to know the residents, thus improving their ability to do things like mediate disputes between neighbors, for example.