Preston officials hear Ledyard police presentation

Preston — Contracting with the Ledyard Police Department to provide 24-hour police coverage would bring “community-oriented policing” to Preston, with services ranging from crime and accident investigation and a marine patrol response, to vacant house checks and public safety educational services.

Ledyard police Chief John Rich and Lt. Kenneth Creutz gave a presentation Thursday to the Preston Board of Selectmen and the Emergency Services Advisory Committee on a proposal for Ledyard police to cover Preston. The emergency services committee in 2017 recommended the town stay with the current resident state trooper program rather than contract with Ledyard or Norwich for police coverage, but selectmen decided to revisit the issue this year.

First Selectman Robert Congdon said at the start of the meeting that he is recommending two resident troopers in his proposed 2019-20 budget and said if the town decides to contract with Ledyard, “it couldn’t happen tomorrow.”

Rich said it's difficult to provide one solid cost figure, because there are many ranges in salaries involved in new staff to be hired for the added patrols. He said he would need to add five officers and one vehicle to provide 24-hour coverage in Preston 365 days a year. The department would expand two existing patrols in Ledyard to add Preston territory, and would need one entirely new patrol for the area north of Route 2, covering the majority of Preston territory. A roving patrol on the evening shift would provide backup to all patrol areas.

Rich provided a chart with salary costs ranging from $370,650 to $480,795, based on the current Ledyard budget and depending on the experience of the five officers. A supervisor sergeant would oversee the coverage 24 hours a day, Rich said. An added dispatcher for the anticipated call volume increase would cost $59,297 to $73,830. An added administrator would cost $27,833 in the first year in promotion costs.

Preston also would have to pay $45,758 in a one-time capital cost in the first year to purchase a police cruiser that would be dedicated to Preston. The town would pay $9,000 in the second year, $9,225 in the third year and $9,456 in the fourth year in incremental costs to replace that cruiser in the future.

Additional costs for Ledyard to cover Preston include $11,000 in fuel costs, $3,600 in vehicle maintenance, $5,996 for utilities and $600 for water, according to a January 2019 Ledyard police chart on the cost analysis to cover Preston.

Overtime costs would be charged per incident for extended emergency operations.

“We really don’t have a bench,” Rich said of the department’s staffing. “That’s why we would have to hire five officers to provide coverage to your town.”

Adding Preston coverage would almost double the size of the coverage area for Ledyard police, he said.

Rich projected a map depicting pinpoints of the 177 traffic crashes in Preston in 2016, the majority along routes 2, 2A, 12 and 164. He said Ledyard would concentrate its traffic enforcement in those areas and would work with the state Department of Transportation on possible roadway improvements.

Ledyard Mayor Fred Allyn III said Ledyard's position is that the town cannot offer the service at a financial loss, but also is not looking to make a big profit off the service. He projected Ledyard's return would be about 5 percent.

Congdon said if Preston took on the projected 20 percent of Ledyard's police overhead costs, Ledyard would gain savings there, as well.

Preston’s 2018-19 budget includes $370,830 for two resident state troopers, but there is no designated trooper coverage overnight and on weekends in town, Congdon said.

In a letter dated Feb. 11 from the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, the projected cost of the current two resident state troopers, Armando Bettini and Garrett Boehm, would cost an estimated $345,385, including overhead costs, meals, travel miles, vehicle depreciation, supplies and uniforms.

c.bessette@theday.com

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