Wilmington Police Department requests funding for sixth officer


WILMINGTON >> Voters may be deciding whether a sixth spot on the police department stays after a grant runs out.

"With that sixth position, overtime drops significantly here. Our part-time usage decreases and it's used for grants and supplementing shifts," Police Chief Joe Szarejko told the Selectboard on Wednesday, Dec. 9. "I don't like using part-timers or less-trained individuals to cover shifts. Before, that's one of the reasons I wanted to go to that sixth position."

Town Manager Scott Murphy said this is the last year of the grant. The town is obligated to fund the position in the grant's fourth and final year. The grant expires after the current fiscal year, FY16. The original grant funding amount was $197,000.

Full-time officers can focus on assignments and investigations, Szarejko said in support of keeping the sixth position. And having an extra officer helps with coverage for other officers taking vacation and sick time.

"Officers and their families getting burnt out on police work contributes to officers leaving," he said. "With five positions, we still need a significant amount of part-time officers to fill shifts."

Certain calls cannot be covered by a part-time officer due to a new law going into effect July 1. A three-tier system limits the amount of incidents to which an officer with less training can respond.

Between downtown revitalization and continuing Hermitage Club development, Szarejko said its impact is unknown. A 93-unit hotel is currently being planned for the company's private ski resort at Haystack Mountain while new businesses keep popping up on Main Street.

Selectboard member Susie Haughwout said if the board decides to include funding for the position then voters must approve it.

"We don't just approve it and stick it in the budget," she said. "Whatever the mechanism is, it doesn't just get buried in the budget without the voters knowing they can specifically approve that position."

Haughwout recalled the grant process starting in 2009 or 2010.

"We had to set the money aside for the fourth year and prove we were doing that, which we did," she said. "Because of the amount of people who came in and out of that position, it got extended. There was some difficulty keeping people in the position."

Currently, the department has five officers. One of those officers is planning to go through training at the Vermont Police Academy in February.

Available positions on the department are being advertised on the town's website at wilmingtonvermont.us.

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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