Derry policing board urges town to renew VSP contract

By Bruce Frauman
© 2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Maryann Morris, center, delivers the Policing Committee's recommendation to renew the VSP contract. Photos by Bruce Frauman

Maryann Morris, center, delivers the Policing Committee’s recommendation to renew the VSP contract. Photos by Bruce Frauman

Londonderry’s Policing Committee came out in force on Monday to recommend to the Select Board that it place on the 2017 Town Meeting warning a proposal to renew the Vermont State Police contract for one year of 25 hours a week of patrol and community policing for  $86,000.

Select Board member Bill Wylie strongly objected to the contract, but voted with the board to put the article on the warning.

In presenting the committee’s recommendation, Maryann Morris told the board that a large focus on community style policing proved successful in “showing a presence” in town. Morris said that comparing before and after the contract, there were five times more calls to police and responses than before the contract.  “So, law enforcement (has been) active and in the area.”

Wylie objected to the contract saying, “We already paid the police once. We are now paying the police $86,000 to come here.” He added that he felt the money could be better spent on other town needs. His assertion that the town should ask for more services regardless of the contract was met with approval but skepticism that those services would be provided.

Morris noted that the police cover at least 17 towns over a large area and its main job is to patrol I-91 and all the towns that it covers. Committee member Joel Kohlberg told Wylie that “the state police are admittedly very understaffed because there is not money in the state budget to pay them and they can’t find people to hire.”

Policing Committee member Marge Fish told Wylie, “When my grandchild comes up visiting, I want to know that when I go to the parks, there are not drug deals happening around.”

“Just having the presence and folks not knowing when they will or will not be in the community is a huge deterrent,” added Town Administrator Stephanie Thompson.

Michael Arace tells the board that the police presence has brought greater safety and security to Londonderry

Michael Arace tells the board that the police presence has brought greater safety and security to Londonderry

Committee member Michael Arace said, “The town of Londonderry noted that there was a need for some sort of change to bring a sense of security to the town. After deliberation, we hired the state police in the hopes that it would impact traffic safety within town, it would bring a sense of security to the towns folk to participate more in town activities and it would reduce the impact of criminal activity in our neighborhood. After a year, I think we have accomplished all those goals by having the state police here.”

Resident Dick Dale calculated that the cost at less than $50 per person per year which “is cheap for the kind of reward that I know has taken place.”

Londonderry voters will get their chance decide whether or not to renew the contract at Town Meeting on Tuesday March 7.

Public works job proposed, salt shed research and Irene buyouts continue

During budget presentations to the board before the regular meeting, Road Foreman Duane Hart made the case for creating a 30-hour-a-week Public Works director position at a cost of about $63,250 per year, a cost that includes benefits.

“I think this is a needed position,” said Hart. “The administrative work in the Highway Department has grown. I am being asked to do many things, and I am doing none of them well.”

Duane Hart explains the proposed position of Public Works Director

Duane Hart explains the proposed position of Public Works director

Included in the job would be helping the Highway Department become more OSHA compliant and pursuing grant funding from start to finish. Hart proposed himself for the position, which would also include mowing the parks and the fields, maintenance of the parks, and being available as a spare snow plow driver. He suggested hiring another person to take his current job as road foreman.

Hart currently is an hourly employee, working about 40 hours a week, and averages about the same wage that he is proposing and includes benefits.

This was the first presentation about this proposal and it will be included in the draft budget that the board will deliberate on in January.

With Wylie and Board member Paul Gordon both gathering estimates for steel, wood and fabric based buildings for the salt/sand shed, the board is coming closer to making a decision on which to recommend to the voters in March. Gordon estimated that the cost of the project is between  $150,000 and $180,000. One supplier of both steel and fabric covered buildings told Gordon he will no longer sell steel buildings to be used as salt sheds because the salt corrodes the metal even if it’s painted.

Board member Will Reed noted that the white fabric covering allows more light into the interior of the building, and Hart agreed. The disadvantage of a fabric covered arch building is that the covering would have to be replaced after 12 to 16 years at a cost of about $13,000 to $15,000 according to Gordon. The board will continue to discuss these options in January.

Thompson told the board that a telephone pole on the FEMA buyout property in South Londonderry had been removed. FairPoint had been waiting for Comcast to remove some cables. The board also chose to pay Eckman Engineering $2,600 for work that is still not complete in an effort to help clear the way finishing FEMA work so it can buy out the former Outlet Barn through a Community Development Block Grant.

Planning commission questions proposed solar array

Planning Commission member Dick Dale told the board that an application was submitted  to the Public Service Board build a solar array in two phases on  property across from Thompsonburg Road near Route 11.

“The first phase is for a 150 MW project and then a second for totals 350 MWs, both on the same property. Both the Windham Regional Commission and the Planning Commission have concerns that this is an end run around the increased requirements of the 500 megawatt array,” said Dale.  The Planning Commission is concerned about the size of the array and the sense that “they are not being as upfront as they need to be about the total impact of the project.”

Dale said the Planning Commission is drafting a letter detailing these concerns and will be seeking public response for the Utilities Commission.

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