BELLOWS FALLS -- The village's police force recently chose to swap out the International Brotherhood of Police Officers for the New England Police Benevolent Association as its exclusive bargaining agent.
According to Municipal Manager Willis D. "Chip" Stearns II, the Vermont Labor Relations Board held an election earlier this month and union members of Bellows Falls Police Department voted 10-1 in favor of dropping the IBPO for the NEPBA. He told the Reformer there were three options in the election -- stick with the current agent, pick the NEPBA or pick neither.
Stearns said the village police department's contract with the IBPO expires on June 30, but he has not yet heard from the newly select agent. He said he needs to hear from the NEPBA before negotiations can take place with a team that consists of Stearns, Village Clerk Kerry Bennett, Bellows Falls Trustee Sanford "Sandy" Martin, Rockingham Selectboard Chairman Tom MacPhee and Village Attorney/Town Agent Ray Massucco.
Tony Archinski, the director of administration for the NEPBA, said his agency is waiting for a certification from the Vermont Labor Relations Board that confirms the agency is the exclusive bargaining agent of the BFPD before reaching out to the town. He said he was told that could take about 10 days, but he expects to have the certification by the end of the week.
Archinski said the NEPBA represents roughly 4,000 law enforcement professionals (police officers, corrections officers, probation officers and dispatchers) in approximately 60 locales throughout New England. He said Bellows Falls is the latest Vermont department to join the NEPBA, as Williston and Milton also made the switch recently.
"We are looking forward to representing more and more law enforcement professionals in Vermont. We're basically on fire up there right now," he said Monday. "We're happy to have (the BFPD)."
Archinski said the NEPBA presents officers facing any disciplinary issues and throughout contract negotiations. He also mentioned it supports any officer involved in a critical incident, whether or not the officer is injured. Archinski said this service is the cornerstone of his agency.
"We pride ourselves on the fact that we represent law enforcement exclusively," he said, speaking from the NEPBA's regional headquarters in Chelmsford, Mass. The news of the vote was on the home page of the NEPBA's website as of Monday afternoon.
Stearns said BFPD Chief Ron Lake and the department's three sergeants did not participate in the vote, which the Vermont Labor Relations Board oversaw, because they are not union members due to their positions as supervisors. Archinski said the vote required a simple majority of those voting.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.