KILLINGTON — The town is following the same law-enforcement path as its neighbors as it prepares to create a police department.
By a unanimous vote this week, the Select Board took a page from Pittsford and Rutland Town, both of which established police departments in recent years.
“I think it’s time for us to do this,” said Selectman Jim Haff, who made the motion.
While the Select Board has the authority to create a police department, it will be the public which, on Town Meeting Day in March, will vote on an article to change the constables’ positions from elected posts to ones appointed by the town manager.
Members of the audience expressed support for the plan Tuesday, while at the same time posing questions about what changes might happen with a shift from constables to a police department.
“We’ve got a big town and I don’t think it can be handled by a constable,” said resident Ed Fowler. “We’re going to grow and have a (ski) village and we’re going to do a lot of good things, so I want to see a police department. I don’t want to see the costs jump to a police station and a jail.”
The board began the meeting by approving a motion to change the name of a budget section from “constables’ budget” to “public safety.”
The budget amount for the two police positions, however, will remain the same at $79,500.
John Paul Faignant, a Rutland Town selectman and second constable, oversaw his town’s creation of a police department, which has neither a police station nor a detention cell.
“We had an initial jump in the budget because we needed to buy some equipment, but Killington already has it,” said Faignant, who has been assisting Killington Second Constable Whit Montgomery with the paperwork required by the state to create a police department. “After that, the budget went back to what it was.”
Haff’s motion to create a police department included a caveat that the town receive some sort of assurance from Vermont State Police that troopers would still respond to calls from Killington.
“All 911 calls are routed through the (state police) dispatch in Rutland, who then dispatches the officer who’s closest,” Faignant said. “If we have a cop on duty, we respond. If nobody’s on duty, they respond.”
The biggest changes will be positive, based on his own experience, said Faignant. For example, a constable who makes a traffic stop will only have the information available from the Department of Motor Vehicles. A police officer who is member of a law enforcement agency has access to information from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
Statutorily speaking, if Killington voters approve the change, constables who are elected will serve their remaining terms before the town will make appointments.
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