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    Sunday, September 25, 2022

    Montville Town Council approves independent police department ordinance

    Montville ― The third time’s the charm.

    Maybe.

    The Town Council unanimously approved an ordinance to implement an independent police department at a special meeting Monday night, marking the third time in 20 years that the town has approved such an ordinance.

    The previous two ordinances were overturned at referendums in 2002 and 2016.

    “I think it’s great that we finally moved on this issue,” Mayor Ron McDaniel said after the vote.

    Members of the public who do not agree with the council’s decision have 20 days to submit a petition with signatures of at least 5% of registered voters to force a vote by residents, as was the case in 2002 and 2016.

    Nineteen residents addressed the council prior to the vote Monday night, including Montville Police Lt. Dave Radford. All but one voiced their support for an independent police department

    “Numerous years ago I was opposed to this,” said council Chairman Tom McNally. “At the time it was cost prohibitive. We did not have a building. Since then we have a building. Back then we did not have a clear transition plan. Currently, we do have a very detailed transition plan.”

    McNally said the plan is to have an independent police department in place by July 1, 2023. He said the transition plan will be available to the public along with the meeting minutes online within the next seven days.

    While all seven councilors voted in favor, Colleen Rix said she worried about the finances. Councilor Lenny Bunnell Sr. said the town will be in a better position to control the cost of their own department compared to the rising costs of a resident state trooper.

    “I think it’s up to the council to control costs but one thing we can’t control is the cost of the resident trooper,“ Bunnell said, noting he has seen the cost of the program increase by $200,000 from $40,000.

    McNally, who also chairs the Board of Finance, said after removing the $240,000 cost of the resident state trooper, while adding a chief of police ($120,000 plus benefits), a secretary ($50,000) and four full-time dispatchers ($275,000), the town will see a yearly budget increase between $150,000 to $160,000. He said that’s comparable to a $10 yearly increase on a $250,000 house, or less than a dollar a month.

    McNally also noted that the town will now have more opportunities to seek grant funding on both the local and state levels, something it can not do currently.

    Currently, the town operates under the Resident State Trooper Program and Mayor Ron McDaniel is the police chief, a position he said he’s not qualified for. With the new ordinance, the town would be required to hire a full-time chief.

    Lt. Radford oversees the department’s day-to-day administration and scheduling of personnel while Resident State Trooper Sgt. Chris Vaillancourt supervises the operation of the department.

    The town built a $6.5 million dollar police station in 2012 that Bunnell said is not being used to its potential. Services such as holding cells, evidence rooms, evidence processing rooms and the dispatch center are untouched as the town uses state police facilities.

    Creating an independent police force would allow the officers to use their own equipment, instead of the state police’s facilities.

    k.arnold@theday.com

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