WATERBURY, Vt. (WCAX) If you're driving through Waterbury, you may notice a state trooper patrolling the streets. Since the village of Waterbury dissolved last year, the town had been without a police department, but under a new pilot program, specific troopers will be assigned to cover the area.
Troopers Joseph Szarejko and Richard Ostrout are working a combined 80 hours a week as part of a new contract between the town of Waterbury and the Vermont State Police. "I'm just looking forward to pretty much just getting up and running," Trooper Szarejko said.
Before coming to Waterbury, Szarejko worked at the New Haven barracks for nine years, mostly doing patrols and paperwork. He's enjoying his new role--focused more on community policing. "It's a very tight-knit community. Everyone seems very friendly and welcoming over here. And there just seems to be a lot of social events where the community all comes together," he said.
Despite the positive reception so far, Szarejko is well aware of people's concerns. "It is a little stressful for me, especially this being a pilot program," he said.
Scott Farris has lived in Waterbury for 14 years. He's open to the idea now, but was not in favor of the contract at first. "I like the town having their own cops," he said. Farris is concerned about scheduling gaps. One trooper works the day shift and one the night shift. But that means no one is on duty Sundays, Saturday morning and afternoon, and Monday night. "If we have a major incident, it's just response time. Especially with the craft beer here in town, there's been a lot more traffic and a lot of people out of state."
State Police said troopers at the Middlesex Barracks would still be available to respond to Waterbury during those gaps.
Waterbury Municipal Manager Bill Shepeluk says it's better than nothing. By December 2017, the village police department had dwindled down to two officers. And after the vote last year to dissolve the village, there was no department at all.
Shepeluk says having a department cost the village around $325,000 a year. Under the state police contract, the town will pay around $365,000 dollars a year.
"The big deal is that the $325,000 that was supporting the Waterbury Police Department was only being raised on the village's grand list," Shepeluk said. "It always seemed to me a little bit inequitable that the people in the village were paying for all of the police service."
It's more expensive, but now everyone will pay the same amount for police protection, and Shepeluk says the town does not have to worry about police evaluations, supervising, or insurance. It's all included in the contract.
Shepeluk says he hasn't gotten much feedback from residents yet.
Meanwhile, Trooper Szarejko says he is putting his best foot forward. "I like to talk to people, get to know as many people as I can. I'm here to help out," he said.
Right now the troopers have a desk at the fire department. The town is still working on setting up a phone number, so if you do have to get into contact with one of the troopers, call the Middlesex State Police Barracks: 229-9191