BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, Feb. 11, the Village Trustees were updated on the Bellows Falls Police Department overtime with the discussion around staffing concerns and next year’s budget.
Village President Deborah Wright acknowledged that with normal proceedings, department heads built their budgets and presented them to the board, but a reversal of action might be appropriate.
James McAuliffe said it was different this year. “We don’t have a police chief for the beginning of the budget process.”
He thought it important for the board “to have a feel for next year’s budget” to pass on to Municipal Manager Wendy Harrison before hiring a new police chief. He said, “I am looking for a reduction, and there is an opportunity for our board now.”
Selectboard member Gaetano Putignano said he was told by the Police that things were not getting done because they don’t have adequate staff. He questioned what the village was doing about the lack of officers, specifically about Officer Josh Paulette’s suspension and the hiring of new officers.
Harrison said there was no news on how long Officer Paulette was out on suspension. She explained they wanted to hire part-time officers to fill the gaps and had ads at the Police Academy and on the municipal website, www.rockbf.org.
Putignano commented that as a tax-paying citizen, the lack of officer staff was frustrating. Sargeant Bemis shared that the department was short-staffed, but that officers were “responding to what they needed to and that everyone was working hard.”
Resident Wade Masure said he thought it a perfect time to investigate the costs of using the Windham County Sheriff’s Department and compare services. He reiterated, “Now is the time to initiate the discussion.”
McAuliffe agreed that Windham County could be a part and that the Trustees should outline the type of coverage they want and “give the manager what we are willing to spend next year” on the Police Department.
Deborah Wright mentioned that the village combines services with WCSD with the dispatch office being housed there.
Resident Sharon Boccelli commended the Police Department and said, “Our PD is a great PD. We just need to adjust what we are doing with what we have and work more efficiently.”
Stefan Golec also supported the BFPD. “The Police Department we have is diligently doing what they can.”
Deborah Wright reminded everyone that despite the reduction of staff, the village is paying Ron Lake’s salary. His retirement date is not effective until March 1.
The next Trustees meeting is Tuesday, March 10 at 6 p.m. in the Town Hall.