Village Trustees discusses Police Department budget

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, March 10, the Bellows Falls Village Trustees discussed the Police Department, budget and the village’s response to COVID-19.

Municipal Manager Wendy Harrison said the health office is working on a plan to prevent and minimize impacts to the town and village. They suggest residents limit visits to the Town Hall by mailing all payments to P.O. Box 370, 7 Square, Bellows Falls, VT 05101. Residents can call 802-463-3964 and visit the website, www.rockbf.org. For more information, go to www.healthvermont.gov and www.cdc.gov.

Selectboard Vice Chair Gaetano Putignano asked why the Bellows Falls Police Department was the only department utilizing an encrypted channel, that he said some residents thought was a way to hide something.

Harrison said the channel encryption came from grant money from past chief Keith Clark and there was a definite value for officers, but “We want residents and visitors to have trust in the Police Department.”

Harrison noted there were a lot of other ways to improve trust, which was critical. To encourage transparency, the BFPD was publicizing press releases including investigations and arrests at www.Bfpolice.blogspot.com, and Sergeant Bemis hoped to have a link on the BFPD Facebook page.

Putignano asked for an update on Officer Josh Paulette’s suspension and when he was coming back. Finance Director Shannon Burbela said it was a legal matter, and they could not disclose that information.

As they reviewed overtime and comp reports for the BFPD, Village President Deborah Wright said the Trustees were judicially responsible for the budget and concerned that the extra overtime would make them over budget. Harrison said they were confident that revenue would be over and expenses under budget.

Burbela referred to the union contract on overtime discussions, reading, “The hours of work and shift assignments shall not be changed to avoid the payment of overtime.”

McAuliffe said, “I am asking you to be practical and reasonable,” about staffing two officers 24/7 and did not agree that the contract demanded it with the current lack of staff.

Burbela shared next year’s budget projection, which included eight full-time officers, plus the Police Chief, and money for a new vehicle or vehicle maintenance.

McAuliffe wanted to see a budget with six full-time officers plus the chief while eliminating the canine, which he stated is an overtime issue and suggested they rely on the State Police for that service. He said he wanted to assess the need for a vehicle, and Jonathan Wright agreed a discussion was needed for a plan on vehicles.

The Trustees scheduled a special meeting for March 14 for the upcoming budget discussion. The finance department requested residents send water bill payments prior to March 25.

The annual Village Meeting is scheduled for May 19 at this time.

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