Londonderry board OKs proposal to hire State Police, delays town vote til March

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2015 – Telegraph Publishing LLC

Photos by Shawn Cunningham.

From left, Londonderry Select board members Wayne Blanchard, Cathy Aragi and Paul Gordon listen to the policing committee’s recommendations. Photos by Shawn Cunningham.

The Londonderry Select Board last night unanimously approved the recommendations of its Ad Hoc Policing Committee to contract with Vermont State Police for patrols. But decided to wait until Town Meeting in March 2016 to put the question before voters.

But it was one audience member’s contention on drug abuse in town and his call for the resignation of a Select Board member that brought the problem to everyone’s doorstep.

Formed by the Select Board on Aug. 3, the ad hoc committee took on the task of studying and recommending a policing scheme that would help address the dramatic increase in crime — mainly burglaries — in the town. You can read the recommendations here.

Police board in Londonderry

Ad Hoc Policing Committee chair Peter Pagnucco, center left, urges the board to implement the recommendations as soon as possible.

In October alone, Vermont State Police reported 20 break-ins, burglaries and “other larcenies” in the Londonderry area including ones at Flood Brook, Windham and Winhall Mountain schools and the Windham and Londonderry town offices. The committee’s report linked those crimes to the area’s drug problem and also noted a dozen unsolved arsons over a 10-year period.

Last night, Londonderry resident Chad Stoddard told the board that the community should start by policing itself.

“We have people who are on committees in this town who shouldn’t be there,” said Stoddard who then called for the immediate resignation of Select Board member Cathy Aragi. “I don’t feel she should be a select person due to her connection to some of the issues in this town.”

Aragi shot back, “It’s true, my daughter is an addict. She’s addicted to heroin, but that doesn’t affect how I do my business.”

Vermont State Police said they have cited Aragi’s daughter, Alexandra Thomas, along with Travis Despain, for the June 1 burglary of the New American Grill in the Mountain Marketplace. On Monday, Oct. 26, Thomas was cited for the Oct. 10 break-in and burglary of Coleman’s Auto Repair in Bondville. Despain is expected to be cited for that break-in when he returns from a treatment center. Vermont State Police continue to investigate whether there is a connection between Thomas, Despain and several other recent area break-ins.

Vermont State Police contract recommended


More than 20 residents gathered at the Twitchell Building to hear the Ad Hoc Policing Committee’s recommendations.

After looking at options that included created a town police force and contracting with the Winhall Police or the Windham County Sheriff, the ad hoc committee decided unanimously to recommend that the town contract with the Rockingham barracks of the Vermont State Police to provide 25 hours per week of patrol and community policing for $86,000 per year. These would be overtime hours in addition to the VSP’s regular patrols.

The committee further recommended that the Select Board make the policing committee permanent and that the board implement the recommendations as soon as possible, but no later than Town Meeting in March 2016.

Londonderry SB 2

Select board chair James Ameden, left, and member Steve Prouty thank the committee for its efforts and its ‘professional’ work product.

Calling the report “professional,” board member Steven Prouty thanked committee members for their efforts. Chair James Ameden echoed Prouty’s sentiments, but said he thought that as a new program, this would need to be approved by a town meeting.

Resident Dick Dale said that the perception is that there is increased lawlessness and that people who have never locked their doors are locking their doors. Dale suggested that the problem was serious enough to warrant a special meeting before March.

“I don’t have a lot of faith in special meetings,” said Prouty. “Passionate people will come out, but not many others on a winter night.”

Board member Paul Gordon moved that the board accept the report and its recommendations, and the motion passed unanimously without answering the question of when action would be taken.

Policing committee chair Peter Pagnucco urged the board to make a decision on implementing the recommendations as soon as possible noting that “the problems are not going away and seem to be getting worse.”

“The consensus is that they (the audience) want to have a special meeting,” Aragi told the board.

“I don’t think we’re going to decide anything right away,” said Ameden. “Maybe within a couple of meetings, but we’re not back-burnering this.”

Newly named Town Administrator Stephanie Thompson told the board that if they decided then to hold a public meeting, the earliest it could happen — with public notice requirements — would be Friday, Dec. 18.

The board voted unanimously to make the policing committee permanent and Ameden told the audience that the board would consider when to schedule a town meeting either later that evening or at the next select board meeting on Monday, Nov. 16. Later in the evening, the board voted to warn the committee’s proposal for the Tuesday, March 1, 2016 Town Meeting.

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