BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, Jan. 12, the Bellows Falls Trustees discussed the Bellows Falls Police Department. Chief David Bemis explained there were recent burglaries in town that “matched the MO with Walpole,” and they were working together with the Walpole Police Department on the investigation. They are requesting that anyone who has information to call BFPD or WPD.
Bemis also announced the kickoff for the outreach program with the Springfield Turning Point Recovery Center. The project helps provide assistance and support to someone in crisis, and both the BFPD and Turning Point would respond to calls. Bemis said, “Hopefully, we can assist people with their addiction.”
Municipal Manager Scott Pickup said the BFPD needed updated computer systems to install the Dominion security and software for the Axon cameras. Security vulnerabilities were a concern.
Bemis said the department was diligently working to recruit new officers, and Pickup noted that many regions were working short-staffed. He mentioned when Bemis was hired they offered recruitment bonuses and said they could “look into doing that.”
James McAuliffe asked Bemis if state agencies offered initiatives for officer recruitment. Bemis said they were offering upgrades for certifications, enabling departments to hire officers with less academy training requirements, but bonuses were offered by communities.
Wade Masure asked about 21 police department assists “outside the village” made in December. Bemis explained that many were agency assists inside the village and said, “Officers would not go out of the village without a request to assist.”
Masure asked if that information could be broken down in the report so Trustees would know what agencies called and in what towns assists were made.
Moving on to snow removal and plowing in the village, Pickup mentioned that he found a Winter Operations Plan, last revised in 2000, that discussed village towing policies. The parking permit application states that lots are posted 24 hours prior to snow removal and car owners are contacted prior to towing. Bemis responded that the BFPD makes every effort to contact car owners before towing their vehicles, but in December seven cars were towed from the Hetty Green Lot. “The last thing we want to do is to tow vehicles,” but that even one car in the lot “makes a mess” for snow removal.
Village President Deborah Wright said she received a complaint from a resident that had in the past received emails and had missed the call that night. Pickup said, “We don’t tow immediately. It’s unfortunate – frustrating for us. We much prefer you move your car.”
Stefan Golec said it’s common sense. “Take some responsibility as the vehicle owner to get it off the street or out of the lot.”
Bemis explained that when vehicles are towed, the owner is charged $75 payable to the BFPD, but that pays the towing company.
Golec suggested they revamp parking permit applications to require phone number, physical address, and email.
During the Trustee meeting, Pickup also announced that Feb. 1 was the first meeting for the working group for self-driving vehicle testing. He suggested the group stay reasonably small but wanted to see a member from each of the boards. Wright said, “I’m very happy to be on it.”
The Trustees meet on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 6 p.m. in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House. Meetings are recorded and available on www.fact8.com.