ROCKINGHAM, Vt. – On Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, the Rockingham Selectboard discussed public safety services with Windham County Sheriff Mark Anderson.
Anderson, who has been with the Windham County Sheriff’s Office since 2004, explained that they fund civil process and the transport of prisoners. Contracted services include law enforcement and assisting construction projects, which provide 70-80% of their revenue. He said they have contracts with towns from $2,000 per year to 24 hour 911 services.
Chair Peter Golec said there was an article on the Town Warning asking Rockingham voters for $6,000 to pay for eight hrs per month; 96 hours per year for policing in Rural Rockingham.
Anderson said they provide supplemental service with the State Police, explaining the office relies on a 3 legged stool (engineering, education, and enforcement); without one leg the system fails. He said, “two hours per week was not a significant amount of time to support that stool.”
Board member Susan Hammond suggested starting with a heavy presence and spreading out the hours over time. She said there was more concern in the summertime with speeding because of walkers on the road.
Anderson agreed that “saturation controls create a belief of consequence should a person violate the law.” He was not advocating for the amount of a contract, but “cautioned the effect versus the desired goal.”
Board member Rick Cowan asked Anderson if his office had the capacity to add another 96 hours. Anderson said Rockingham’s request was “a fairly easy lift.” Cowan asked Anderson about Westminster’s concerns over service. Anderson explained the contract with Westminster was a misunderstanding of the number of hours expected and contracted. He said, “the expectation didn’t meet reality.”
Anderson said that last year they were understaffed; in July they had 30 members and currently they have 40. He explained the hiring process takes roughly one full year to recruit, train, and implement Officers.
Cowan said he expected town voters to have questions for the Sheriff’s Office and asked if he was available to attend this year’s town meeting. Anderson agreed to coordinate with Municipal Manager Scott Pickup.
Board member Elijah Zimmer asked about reporting. Anderson explained the town would have access to reporting based on his deputy’s time sheet reports. He said they had six devices for data collection, so they know what response to use and when. He said Rt. 30 delivers traffic to three ski areas, so they know to target Friday nights and Sunday afternoons. He said the data collection devices help the office target and utilize town resources conservatively.
Hammond asked if the town receives a portion of each ticket to potentially defray some of the costs. Anderson gave a layperson’s assessment, the amount of money that can be returned if and when tickets are paid is roughly 60% of the overall ticket. He said, “I caution…it’s the benefit that the town receives, but not the goal (which is) to target public safety goals and identify and address concerns.”
Resident Jennifer Quilty asked how the cost would be absorbed. Hammond explained by all taxpayers living in Rockingham which also encompasses Saxtons River and Bellows Falls.
The selectboard meetings are the first and third Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. The tri-board meeting is the fifth Tuesday, January 31 at 6 p.m. in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House. Town Meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 6 at 7 p.m. with voting at the Masonic Temple on Tuesday, March 7.