Vermont State Police and town officials in Thetford have talked about the possible closure of the state's Bradford barracks, which would create a hole in services for the town. It's where a lot of administrative work takes place when arrests are made after hours. Now Thetford needs to decide how to proceed, taking into consideration that possible loss.
"One of the things that I think we have come to a consensus on is we want to have a local force," said Tig Tillinghast, a Thetford Selectboard member.
The town's police chief wants to add a new administrator to the force which he said would cost an additional 40-thousand dollars. But some town officials say that may not the most cost effective solution. "When I first joined the selectboard five or so years ago, we had a 130-thousand dollar department. Now we have about a 250-thousand dollar department," Tillinghast said.
Tillinghast said over the past several months the town has met three times to discuss options. And ultimately, he said, it will be up to the voters to decide. "One option is to hire an administrator in-house just for Thetford. Another option is to cooperate with a neighboring town, or a series of neighboring towns, who are also going to require similar additional help -- or an existing agency that does this for additional towns, like the state police or the sheriff's office," he said.
"There has not been enough due diligence in the process," said Penny Sirjane, a Thetford Center resident. She wants to see a police committee formed made up of present and past officers. "people -- all who have vast experience with policing -- get them on board, get them to be part of the discussion. Get us civilians to understand the nuisances of policing a little bit better and make informed decision," Sirjane said.
The Bradford barracks helps provide coverage around the clock. If that barracks were to close officials are still trying to figure out how to cover the area and deal with longer response times. Whatever the solution, they say taxpayers will likely foot the bill.
"We are probably going to have to pay more than we spend right now just to maintain the existing services because the pieces of help the state police is probably pulling back," Tillinghast said.
According to a spokesperson for the Vermont State Police, several options are being explored to consolidate services, but nothing is set in stone. State officials are planning a meeting In Bradford next week -- another town with a small police department that will likely face similar concerns.
The public forum will be held on October 24 at 6 p.m. at the Bradford Barracks, located at 1594 Waits River Road in Bradford.
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