Beacon Falls, Bethany looking to share trooper

BEACON FALLS — Officials in Beacon Falls and Bethany are working together on a plan to share a resident state trooper.

The two towns participate in the resident state trooper program. Under the program, Connecticut State Police provide at least one trooper for towns to oversee police operations. State police also provide services, such as dispatch and booking, for towns in the program. For Beacon Falls and Bethany, the services are provided at Troop I in Bethany. Towns in the program still have their own officers that work for the municipalities.

Over recent years, the cost of program for towns has increased, as the state shifts more of the expense onto the towns. For Beacon Falls, the program is estimated to cost about $197,000 in the 2019-20 fiscal year.

The state allows contiguous towns to share a resident state trooper, granted they get approval from the state Department of Emergency Services & Public Protection. In 2014, Roxbury and Bridgewater became the first two towns to share a resident state trooper to save money, according to Republican-American archives.

Officials in Beacon Falls and Bethany met with DESPP officials last week, DESPP spokesman Scott Devico said. The next step, he said, is to craft a memorandum of understanding.

“We all have to be in agreement that this is feasible and we can make it work on all sides,” Devico said.

There is no timeline as to when an agreement will be reached.

“There’s a lot of steps to go through, but that’s an option we are considering,” said Bethany First Selectman Derrylyn Gorski about sharing a resident state trooper.

Gorski didn’t want to discuss the details of the proposal since they are still under negotiations.

Beacon Falls Christopher Bielik, who discussed the plan during a budget workshop April 22, expected the state will support the towns’ request.

Sharing a resident state trooper would cut Beacon Falls’ cost of the program basically in half to $100,000, based on budget estimates, since the resident state trooper would split time between the two towns.

Bielik said the town would still receive the same level of dispatch and booking services provided by Troop I.

Although the cost of the resident state trooper program would go down, overall police spending is projected to increase about $34,000 to $675,381, under the department’s budget proposal.

The increase comes from, in part, an additional 20 hours per week for part-time patrol officers and an additional five hours per week for the administrative lieutenant position to cover when the resident state trooper would be in Bethany.

For all intents and purposes, Bielik said, there’s going to be no difference in the number of officers patrolling the town.

“Just the color of the uniform is going to be different now,” he said.

The overall increase also comes from the town under budgeting for part-time patrol officers this fiscal year, officials said. According to information provided at the workshop, the town budgeted $98,000 for part-time patrol officers this fiscal year but spent $117,334 through March 31. The 2019-20 budget proposal includes $189,684 for part-time patrol officers, which would make up for the shortage, and cover the additional hours and a 2.5 percent raise for officers.

The Board of Finance continued with its budget workshops this week. Once the finance board adopts a budget it will go to the Board of Selectmen for approval to send to a hearing and a vote.