Selectmen opt to stick with trooper program

BEACON FALLS — The town will stay with the Connecticut State Police Resident State Trooper program for the foreseeable future.

Officials have been considering cutting ties with the resident state trooper program due to increasing costs of the program. The program appoints a state trooper to a specific municipality and allows that municipality to use a state police barracks to hold prisoners and the state’s emergency dispatch system.

The cost for the program has increased $42,000 over the past two years to nearly $165,000. The town looked into starting its own department and had been in talks with Naugatuck to share services, including the booking and processing of criminals, and storage of evidence.

The borough would have provided those services for a minimal cost, First Selectman Christopher Bielik said during Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting. However, the overall cost of breaking away from the state trooper program proved to be too much.

If the town started its own department, it would have to hire a full-time officer to replace the resident state trooper and pay for dispatch service, which is currently handled by Troop I in Bethany, Bielik said.

A cost analysis provided to the board showed it would cost $260,600 in the first year if the town started its own department. That figure includes $120,000 for dispatch service from the Northwest Connecticut Public Safety Communications Center and $104,775 for the salary and insurance of a new officer. The town would also have to pay an annual maintenance cost of $19,000 for the dispatch equipment and $17,000 for items, such as hardware, to enable the town to use the dispatch system.

Minus the expense of the resident state trooper program, starting a department would cost the town an additional $95,000.

“That would just be the raw cost to the town of Beacon Falls for switching over from the system that we have to the one we were looking at pursuing,” Bielik said.

The town currently budgets $585,000 for police expenses, not counting the resident state trooper.

The board chose not to move forward with pursuing its own department.

“At this point, if those numbers stay where they are, I think the consensus is pretty clear that it’s not in our interest to pursue this change,” Bielik said.

Bielik said the only argument he could think of for still moving forward with leaving the resident state trooper program is that the trooper is not in town all of the time. He said that when the trooper is on vacation, at training, or out sick, the town does not receive a replacement trooper.

By contract the support the town receives when the trooper is away comes from the Route 8 trooper, whose corridor spans covers from Exit 12 to Exit 29, Bielik said. If the trooper is far south the response could take anywhere from two to four hours, he said.

Having its own department, the town could ensure nearly 100 percent coverage, he said.

“Is that benefit worth $95,000 is the only point of discussion I can think of,” Bielik said.

Selectman Michael Krenesky felt the benefit didn’t outweigh the extra cost to the town.

“It is just not cost-effective to do it. It’s not even worth having a discussion about. I think we are done,” Krenesky said.

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