Sheriff-Elect Ryan Palmer presents his plans for the department to the Cavendish Selectboard

Photo provided.

CAVENDISH, Vt. – At the Jan. 9 Cavendish Selectboard meeting, Town Manager Brendan McNamara invited Windsor County Sheriff-Elect Ryan Palmer to present an overview of the expanding role of sheriff department services in town.

Confirming his term will begin Feb. 1, Palmer outlined how the department will be evolving under his leadership. “Currently you pay for a certain amount of service. I think [the town] is at 12 hours per week, basically three to four hour blocks spread through the week,” Palmer detailed.

“I’m looking to make the sheriff’s department a more county-wide police department, to give better service to our rural communities.” Palmer said they would be providing a more consistent amount of patrol, up to 16-17 hours per day, by sharing resources across the counties.

Palmer’s proposed changes will increase the allocation in the town budget for the sheriff’s department, from about $37,000 to between $70-90,000 annually. “But, the amount of service would be exponentially greater, and we’ll be making sure that we’re being strategic,” Palmer stated. As a police officer in Ludlow for the last five years, Palmer is familiar with the Okemo Valley and wants to apply what he’s learned and be a “community problem solver.”

Selectboard member George Timko asked if there were options for different levels of coverage or if it was “a yes or no deal.” Palmer said he would prefer to agree to an annual contract, and get away from the current, hourly business mode. Palmer noted, “For a small town, Cavendish is busy, there’s a lot of stuff that goes on.” He added, “I’m not going to leave you hanging, and I’m willing to have some discussions, but the idea that you’re paying for just a four-hour block here and there is not how we want to push forward.”

Timko said people liked having patrol cars out on the back roads, and Palmer responded, “That’s part of what we’re selling as a full-service law enforcement agency.” Palmer said the department was “no longer in the business of writing tickets to generate revenue to write more tickets.” Providing a more holistic approach to community policing is very much Palmer’s focus, for instance working better with social agencies and at-risk youth.

Timko asked if emergency calls requiring social services would be handled by sheriff’s deputies, and if so, were they trained to deal with that type of situation. Palmer said he plans to increase departmental training, but deputies will work closely with social services. A large part of his intended focus over the next year will be to hire someone on staff or contracted through HCRS, with a mental health/social service background.

Palmer told the board his department will have enough staff to cover the proposed expansion of services, with some new officers joining over the next month or so. He also mentioned that although the department’s homebase is Woodstock, the deputies take their cars home, so responses to 911 calls won’t necessarily initiate from Woodstock. Palmer said they will also handle civil complaints, with Thomas Battista heading that program. A 20-year veteran of the Windsor County sheriff’s department, Battista ran against Palmer in the race for sheriff.

State Representative John Arrison asked Palmer if the proposed expansion would impact the county budget. Palmer said that the county budget was already set for the upcoming year, and he wouldn’t expect much increase in future years. Arrison expressed concern that towns with their own police departments wouldn’t agree to share the additional costs. Palmer broke down the allocation of funds, saying the county budget covers his office staff and insurance, the state pays his salary and that of two staff members to transport prisoners, and the remaining budget is paid by the towns who contract police services. Palmer reported that nine towns have committed to the services so far and he thought another three or four would join.

After thanking Palmer and Battista for coming, McNamara and the board revisited the proposal to add an enhanced energy chapter to the town plan. At the most recent planning commission meeting, the discussion about whether or not adopting the chapter would benefit the town had continued, but a conclusion was not reached. Members of the planning commission were in attendance, and Etienne Ting presented a request for a written directive from the selectboard on how to proceed.

The board, members of the planning commission, and Representative Arrison further discussed the pros and cons of the proposal, with the board ultimately passing a motion for McNamara to write a letter advocating for the adoption of the energy chapter into the town plan.

Regarding the new ARPA Committee, McNamara stated that the selectboard had to appoint committee members George Timko (Chairman), Wendy Regier (Vice-Chair), Jen Leak, Betty McEnaney, Julia Gignoux, Peter LaBelle, Stephen Plunkard, and Brendan McNamara (non-voting member). After the motion was presented and seconded, all voted in favor. McNamara said the ARPA will meet on the third Tuesday of each month at 5:15 p.m. at the town office. The next meeting will be Jan. 17, and the public is welcome to attend.

McNamara brought up the Vermont Common Level of Appraisal (CLA) which for Cavendish is 82% and said state statute requires any town below 85% to reappraise. He reminded everyone that the town completed a reappraisal in 2019 which was expensive and took three years to conduct.

Arrison said the state legislature is currently reviewing this topic, prioritizing, and reevaluating which towns most need to reappraise. Arrison advised the board not to make any decisions yet, promising to stay on top of the issue and keep the board informed.

A request for a First-Class Liquor License came from Smokin’ Bowls LLC, for their new location at 2588 Route 103 in Proctorsville, in the former Neal’s Restaurant. After a quick discussion, all voted in favor.

The results of soil testing at the old town garage site are ready to be presented by the engineering firm which conducted the tests, McNamara reported, saying, “I saw the initial, 100-page document that looked pretty in depth from what I could gather, and it didn’t look that bad.” McNamara said he’ll let the board know what may still need to be done but hopes to start work at the site this spring.

During the past week or so, the town has received widespread reporting of discolored water, McNamara noted, but said all water tests have come back normal. McNamara mentioned that sometimes during busy holiday weeks when town population and water use increases, sediment can appear in the system, but the water is potable.

McNamara announced that there would be an informational town meeting held both in person and online, on Monday, March 6, to discuss the articles on the Australian ballot to be voted on Tuesday, March 7.

McNamara reminded the board that the first budget meeting of the year was scheduled for Wednesday, January 11, at 6 p.m. at the town office, and the public was welcome to attend. (*See article, Cavendish Selectboard reviews annual town budget,


Back To Top