Policing expenditure proposal draws lots of questions during Londonderry’s Candidates Night

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Although Londonderry was hosting its annual Candidates Night on Tuesday, Feb. 9, a number of the 55 people in attendance said they had turned out mainly to hear about a proposed expenditure for police protection that they will vote on on March 1.  The back-to-back meetings were held at the Twitchell Building.

Londonderry's policing committee takes questions from the audience. Photos by Shawn Cunningham. Click any photo to launch gallery.

Londonderry’s policing committee takes questions from the audience. Photos by Shawn Cunningham. Click any photo to launch gallery.

The policing expenditure information meeting was held by an ad hoc committee, tapped by the Select Board last August to come up with recommendations to help the town obtain the most cost-effective police protection following a spate of burglaries and unsolved arsons.

Committee chair Peter Pagnucco opened the policing meeting noting that the commission’s seven page report – which recommended hiring the Vermont State Police to patrol the town 25 hours per week for $86,000 a year – had been available since the Select Board received it in early November.

Pagnucco said that rather than reading it, he would open the floor to questions, which fell along a few general themes.

  • What will the State Police be doing and to what effect? The committee told the audience that the scope of VSP operations in town was open to discussion. Among those discussed were speed enforcement, patrolling back roads and areas where property crime has been worst and visiting schools and conducting other community policing efforts. Pagnucco told the crowd that these were among the ideas being discussed at the committee’s regular meetings and that the public is welcome to attend.
  • State Rep. Oliver Olsen, standing, also answers questions on policing proposal. Committee chair Peter Pagnucco is seated beside him.

    State Rep. Oliver Olsen, standing, also answers questions on the policing proposal. Committee chair Peter Pagnucco is seated beside him.

    Why does the town have to pay for State Police patrols? Isn’t that included in our taxes? The committee – with an assist by state Rep. Oliver Olsen – said that the State Police are stretched pretty thin and can respond to problems but could not do regular patrols in every town. In effect, what the town has now is as far as tax dollars go. The Londonderry patrols would be a secondary job that troopers would perform outside their regular shifts for overtime pay. Some objected to paying overtime rates, but committee members noted that, unlike other police organizations, the State Police would not charge for travel time, paperwork time or court time and this could lower the average per hour price tag considerably.

  • Won’t calls for the State Police fall to the patrol officer during the 25-hour period instead of pulling in another officer? The committee acknowledged that this might be the case, but asked if a police officer was nearby wouldn’’t you want the quick response in an emergency? Covering 18 towns as far away as Westminster and Windsor and patrolling 36 miles of I-91, troopers could be very far away from Londonderry when a call comes in.
  • Why pick the Vermont State Police instead of the Windham County Sheriff or the Winhall Police? Winhall Police only offered a three-year contract for round-the-clock coverage for $350,000 per year. The Windham County Sheriff offered more flexibility in a contract but the committee felt that since the state Police would investigate crimes in this area, service would be better and more seamless if they were also on patrol.
  • Why not have the town’s constables patrol or start a Londonderry police force? The constable idea had been set aside almost from the outset, according to committee members who noted that the Select Board had cut the constables’ police powers out of a concern for liability and the expense of insurance. Committee member Neal McIntyre said that according to his research,  the cost of training and equipping several officers, providing a police car and insuring the program would be “extremely expensive.”
  • Shouldn’t the town explore other ways to combat the drug problem that’s at the center of the crime problem? Several questioners cited Rutlands Vision program that brings social services agencies and police. Commission members noted that, as a larger place, Rutland has more resources but that Neighborhood Connections does a very good job. One person asked about trying the Vision approach before signing on with police. Committee members noted that police are a big part of the program.

Before the meeting broke up, Pagnucco told the audience that there would be another information meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 25, also at the Twitchell Building.

Candidates Night: Who’s running; Who’s not

Select Board member Paul Gordon moderates Candidates Night and announces he will seek re-election.

Select Board member Paul Gordon moderates Candidates Night and announces he will seek re-election.

Select Board member Paul Gordon, hosting the candidates meeting, announced that Wendell Coleman would not run for moderator this year, but would accept the job if elected.

Gordon said that he would be running for another three-year Select Board, term citing his work on town policies and procedures, the town’s website and transfer station liaison in addition to representing Londonderry at many state and local meetings.

Londonderry resident and former Select Board member Bob Cowles said that Gordon is an outstanding board member and that he supports his candidacy.

Select Board member Cathy Aragi, who was out of town, sent a letter saying that she would be seeking re-election to the two-year term. She called being a board member “an honor.” William Reed will be challenging Aragi for that seat.

Select Board member Steve Prouty said he was glad that Sandra Clark would stand for another three-year term as lister, especially with a townwide reappraisal on the horizon. “I don’t know what we would do without her,” said Prouty.

Roger Sheehan said he would stand for another term as First Constable. Second Constable Nick Doane was not present, but it was thought that he would also seek re-election as would Joan Dayton for Collector of Delinquent Taxes.

The audience listens intently during Candidates Night.

The audience listens intently during Candidates Night.

Peter Pagnucco said he would seek re-election as Town Grand Juror, but when a person in the crowd asked “What is it?” Pagnucco replied, “Nothing.” In the past, the Grand Juror enforced misdemeanor laws and ordinances but is no longer able to do that under modern arrest laws. There were also prosecutorial powers, but those have largely been taken over by the State’s Attorney leaving very little for the Grand Juror to do.

Unlike the Grand Juror office, Town Clerk Kelly Pajala told the gathering that the Town Agent does have a function and with Wendell Coleman moving out of town, the office would be vacant. “We need someone to run,” said Pajala.

Patricia Wiley will not run for re-election to a five-year term on the Cemetery Commission, but an audience member announced that Maureen Cronin will seek that office.

In other offices, Mike Goodbody said he would run for re-election to the Trustees of Public Funds. Taylor Barton will run for a five-year term as a Trustee of Memorial Park and Nadine van Houten will vie for the unexpired term on the park board vacated by Julie Bacon Snide.

Wendell Coleman will not run for the three year seat on the Regional Education District. He added that  Rosalind Klezos will seek re-election to a three-year seat. Finally, Susie Wyman will seek a one-year term on the Parks Board.

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