Bellows Falls trustees sign new police dispatch contract

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BELLOWS FALLS — Bellows Falls village trustees have signed a new three-year contract with the Windham County Sheriff's Department to provide dispatching services for the Bellows Falls Police Department.

The trustees agreed to the contract last week after exploring other options, said Village President Deborah Wright.

Wright said the trustees started contracting with the sheriff's department about eight years ago in an effort to save money. The sheriff's department provides 128 hours of coverage each week, including Saturday and Sunday, according to the draft contract.

Wright said the village's contract with the sheriff's department was set to expire June 30. She said the initial savings was $300,000 a year, which she said got "absorbed" by the police department's budget.

She said to restore a full-time, 24/7 dispatching center for the police department would cost between $400,000 to $500,000 a year. "It would not be cost effective. It would be all union labor, all union benefits," she said.

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According to the proposed agreement for the dispatching services, the first year of the contract will be $94,500, and increase by 3% each year — $95,498 for the second year and $97,400 for the third year.

The village, in addition to the payment to the sheriff's department, has to pay for four dedicated telephone lines between the police department in Bellows Falls and the sheriff's office in Newfane. The sheriff's department will pay for a $1 million liability insurance policy, as part of the contract.

Currently, there is one full-time dispatcher at the police department, who works a daytime shift. Wright said the village had hoped there was a less expensive option, such as a regional dispatching service. But she said such a regional service does not exist in southern Vermont.

Windham County Sheriff Keith Clark attended the session last week, and also introduced his deputy, Mark Anderson, who he hopes will succeed him as sheriff. Clark has resigned from his elective job, effective June 30, and the Windham County Democratic Committee is expected to forward a list of up to three names to Gov. Phil Scott, who will make the appointment once Clark's resignation takes effect.

In addition to Anderson, Bellows Falls Police Chief Ron Lake is also interested in the sheriff's position. Lake is a former member of the sheriff's department, and has been police chief in Bellows Falls for the last 11 years. "I'd hate to see him go as chief," said Wright, who said she understood his desire to finish his law enforcement career as the county sheriff. She said the Bellows Falls trustees would have to evaluate the department when and if they had to replace Lake.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or at 802 254-2311, ext. 154.


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