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Town and Village

Sheriff, Selectboard work on policing plan for town

DUMMERSTON—The town will likely see the same number of law-enforcement coverage hours from the Windham County Sheriff’s Department next year, but some wiggle room is possible, according to a plan Sheriff Keith Clark presented to the Selectboard.

To help the Selectboard determine the town’s law-enforcement needs for Fiscal Year 2018, Clark visited the regular Board meeting on Dec. 7. Town officials typically work on the following fiscal year’s budgets at the end of the calendar year so they can present the figures to voters at March’s town meeting.

Clark told Board members he generally considers the town’s 20 hours per month of coverage adequate, but, he said, “there are times when I wish you had more hours in a month, and other times I think it’s pretty close to what you need.”

The end of summer, the beginning of the school year, and springtime, are times when the Sheriff’s Department gets more calls “mostly about speeding and traffic issues,” Clark said.

Clark said he doesn’t “advocate for less” coverage or for “a big change,” but said that decision is up to town officials.

Board member Steve Glabach asked Clark if his department could cover a “modest increase” in law-enforcement coverage hours if the town wanted it. Clark assured Glabach this is possible, noting the six full-time deputies — some high-level — now available because the department no longer provides services to the county court system.

“We could easily add five or 10 more hours” to the contract, Clark said.

Clark proposed an option another town uses: keep the 20 hours per month contract, and set aside two additional hours per month for what he described as “quality of life” calls, such as stolen mailboxes or small pieces of landscaping equipment, or complaints about someone driving over a resident’s lawn.

Those two buffer hours can get rolled over into the next month as patrol hours if the town doesn’t use them, Clark said, but wouldn’t roll over into the rest of the year. The town would simply not pay for those hours if they went unused.

He explained the labor division between his department and the Vermont State Police. The Sheriff’s Department doesn’t have the resources for “time-consuming criminal cases” — that’s the Vermont State Police’s purview.

Likewise, Clark noted the State Police won’t likely send an officer to investigate quality-of-life calls. “We can send over a deputy,” Clark said.

In comparing Dummerston with other Windham County towns, Clark said he sees other municipalities experiencing changes in population, demographics, and “different types of crime,” but “you’ve been pretty steady for the last few years.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #389 (Wednesday, December 28, 2016). This story appeared on page B4.

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