Friday December 21, 2012

VERNON -- Police cruisers will be a regular presence as students arrive at and depart Vernon Elementary School.

That policy began Monday in the aftermath of Friday’s deadly attack in Newtown, Conn. But Vernon police Chief Mary Beth Hebert also sees it as a community service that could help address issues such as speeding near the school.

"As far as I’m concerned, this is something that should be done for the foreseeable future," Hebert said.

Hebert said she contacted Vernon Elementary Principal Mark Speno early Monday morning to inquire about providing additional security at the school.

While there are no concerns specific to Vernon, school officials and emergency responders in Vermont and across the U.S. have been reassessing security measures after a gunman killed 26 -- including 20 students -- at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

"I think we’re all concerned with what’s happened," Hebert said.

Speno said he appreciates the police department’s support in the mornings and afternoons, "when we have the most people at the building."

"When (Hebert) proposed that, I thought it was a good idea," Speno said.

Both he and Hebert also said they expect further talks about safety and security at the elementary school, which is situated near the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant on Governor Hunt Road.

"We’re going to see what else we can do to make it better and safer," Hebert said.


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"That’s going to be an ongoing discussion."

The matter was among the topics discussed at Monday’s Vernon Selectboard meeting. Other topics included:

-- The board voted to approve the promotion of police officer Matthew Stains to corporal. That takes effect when the next fiscal year begins on July 1.

Selectboard Chairwoman Patty O’Donnell lauded Stains’ work.

"I’ve always been very impressed talking with him," O’Donnell said. "And certainly, the numbers show that he’s out there doing his job."

Hebert called Stains "one of the hardest-working individuals I’ve ever seen.

"He is the perfect fit for Vernon," she said.

-- The Selectboard continued lengthy budget deliberations for next fiscal year, going over each expenditure in detail. Discussions on Monday included the police and recreation budgets.

Officials also expressed concern about a looming increase in the town’s health-care costs.

O’Donnell, while pushing for completion of a budget early next month, said she favored careful cost-cutting to make the numbers work.

"I don’t want to cut just to cut," she said.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.