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By Kara Herlihy
While Washington County Sheriffs Sam Hill and Brett Meyer discussed options for police coverage with members of the Fayston Select Board at their March 23 meeting, the board was concurrently preparing to receive a petition calling for a revote on the enabling article.
On Town Meeting Day, Fayston approved an article to engage the Washington County Sheriff's Department from April 1 until December 31, 2009, for an amount not to exceed $8,000.
Currently, a petition calling for a revote on Article 20 is in circulation. The petition has yet to be submitted to the town and will require signatures accounting for 5 percent of the town's registered voters. Upon submittal, the select board has 60 days to hold a formal revote.
Sergeants Hill and Meyer requested input from the town officials Monday evening, regarding the type of police coverage and patrol schedule most appropriate for Fayston. Select board member Ed Read said, "People are still confused about what your coverage entails."
Hill said the town has the option to identify "areas of concern" including problems on specific roads as well as times of the day where trouble occurs most often. The Washington County Sheriff's Department offers motor vehicle patrol and full patrol, which Hill said would require additional funding and office staffing.
The sheriff's department would act as the first responders to complaints and, according to Hill, "have a good working relationship with the Vermont State Troopers."
State statute requires that a contract between the town and the sheriff's department be signed before patrol begins. Hill brought a sample contract template for select board members to consider before any decisions about coverage are made.
Hill said, given the approved $8,000, patrols could consist of three- to four-hour shifts plus mileage, a total of five and one-half shifts per month. Patrol would likely focus on the problem areas identified by the town, and some funding would be "held back," according to Hill, for unanticipated costs such as court costs and overtime type expenses.
Select board member Jared Cadwell emphasized the need for "efficiency" in the type of coverage Fayston receives. The problem, according to select board chair Bob Vasseur, is Fayston's lack of proper signage on several of the town's roads.
Vasseur said patrolling some of the roads "is no use" due to missing speed limit signs, which would ultimately result in the nullity of any tickets issued. Hill said coverage and schedules can be "adjusted according to need," including conflicting schedules on the part of several part-time deputies.
A total of 10 towns in Washington County are currently contracted with the sheriff's department.
CARS, UNIFORMS AND SUPPLIES
In reference to funding, Hill said, "Sheriff's departments are small businesses; they have to generate funding." He further estimated that for full patrol, between $42 and $45 is required per hour and "the money has to be made up on the other end in order to afford cars, uniforms, and supplies."
Fines received as a result of traffic violations are returned to the town at a percentage, Hill said. "We have no control over what happens in traffic court," he continued.
Fayston second constable Raymond Munn asked Hill if they "were willing to work with constables as they progress."
Hill said the Middlesex State Police barracks' frequency is monitored by the sheriff's department and that "we're all in it together and need to work together as much as possible."
Cadwell told the sheriffs to "stay tuned" as the town works towards a decision on impending police coverage in Fayston.