Police department staff and salaries safe

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BELLOWS FALLS — The Village of Bellows Falls will not be making any budget cuts to the Bellows Falls Police Department's staffing or salary.

"We didn't think there ought to be any changes to the police department salary at this time," Municipal Manager Shane O'Keefe said at Tuesday night's Board of Trustees meeting. "It's already taken quite a hit. There's too much uncertainty to reduce those numbers more than they've been reduced already."

The trustees approved, four to one, a 2018 budget of $1,751,380 at Tuesday's meeting. The budget required the trustees to evaluate the village's level of services. To accommodate their budget, the trustees switched to a new fire department model of on-call firefighters with a full-time fire chief. They also decided to forego hiring a tenth police officer.

To combat police over-time, the trustees talked to Police Chief Ron Lake about switching police officer shifts from 10-hour days to eight hours.

"If the surprises going forward are the negative surprises then we'll look in your direction to manage that," Trustee James McAuliffe said to Lake, about the lack of cuts his department was getting.

O'Keefe jumped to Lake's defense.

"Nobody's more aware of the need to manage overtime than Chief Lake," he said.

Trustee Deborah Wright pointed out that the police department had already used a significant amount of overtime this budget cycle.

"I'll keep the overtime down. I'm aware of it," Lake said. "I'm gonna do the best I can to make sure that there are at least two people on at all times and a supervisor on. We're gonna make it so. We're gonna make it happen."

Before Lake left, the trustees emphasized to him the importance of keeping up with traffic violations.

Wright was concerned about the village's speed limit. She pointed out that two pedestrians had recently been hit on Rockingham Street.

While crosswalk signs have been added to the area, Wright wondered if it was enough and what else could be done. She didn't think reducing the speed limit would work.

"People who speed are speeders," she said, "that's not going to stop them."

She acknowledged that adding speed bumps would be costly and would make plowing difficult.

Trustee President Myles Mickle speculated that speed bumps might increase accidents if people are going fast enough.

"We need something," Wright said. "Residents are upset, reasonably so, about being run over."

Lake said he could and would enforce speed limits as long as he had enough staff to do so.

"Speed enforcement is easy," he said. "Speed enforcement in the square is easy, just as long as there's nothing going on, and I mean it."

Lake said that all throughout the week he was having officers conduct speed surveys in the square. On Tuesday, he said his officer had only witnessed one speeder. Lake knew these numbers weren't reflective of all speeders.

"Are there speeders in this community?" he asked. "There certainly are."

In order to find these speeders, Lake said the community needs to report them to police when they see them.

Lake also said that he has called the DMV and asked that DMV officials be present around the community to help catch traffic violators.

"They'll be here until snow flies," he said.

Harmony Birch can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext.153. Or you can follow her @birchharmony.

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