Malloy wants towns to cover program’s cost

Gov. Dannel Malloy delivers his biennial budget address to a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly at the Capital in Hartford Feb. 8. Towns that participate in the resident state trooper program would have to pay for the full cost of the program under his proposal. –STEVEN VALENTI/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

HARTFORD — Towns and cities that rely on state troopers for local policing, including Beacon Falls and Prospect, are again facing the possibility of having to pay the full cost for that coverage.

Gov. Dannel Malloy is resurrecting a proposal to require communities participating in the resident state trooper program to pay 100 percent of the cost for all troopers assigned to a town.

The state Office of Policy and Management estimates that change will save the state $1.5 million a year.

Malloy also proposed to charge towns $750 for each local constable that resident state troopers supervise in the two-year budget plan that he presented to the General Assembly last week.

This is estimated to raise $200,000 annually.

“We’re going to resurrect our efforts to share a trooper with neighboring towns,” Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield said in response to the proposal.

Two years ago, the legislature and Malloy changed state law to increase the local share from 70 percent to 85 percent for the costs of the first two troopers deployed and 100 percent of any additional troopers.

The increase in the local share was expected to save the state $2.5 million a year.

The 2015 change still required towns to continue to pay 100 percent of the overtime costs and the portion of fringe benefits directly related to overtime payments.

After the local share increased in 2015, officials in Beacon Falls and Prospect looked into alternative options, including starting their own police departments. However, the cost of an independent department proved to be more expensive, mostly due to the cost of dispatch services.

Right now, both towns have one resident state trooper and local police officers. Dispatch is handled by the state police at the Troop I barracks in Bethany and that’s where people charged with crimes are processed.

Beacon Falls is paying nearly $165,000 for the resident state trooper this fiscal year, according to budget documents. Prospect is paying nearly $163,000, according to budget documents.

A message left with the Office of Policy and Management seeking information on how much 100 percent of the cost would be for one trooper in the coming fiscal year wasn’t returned as of press time.

Chatfield estimated it would cost Prospect over $200,000. Beacon Falls First Selectman Christopher Bielik put the figure at over $175,000 for the town.

Bielik called the proposal “disappointing” and another case of the state shifting the financial burden onto towns.

Bielik said there are times when the resident state trooper is called out of town by the state for training and other assignments, and the trooper is not replaced. He estimated the trooper spends about 70 to 75 percent of his time during the year in town.

“Now, we’re paying our fair share (for the program),” Bielik said. “We’ll be paying more than our fair share.”

Bielik said he is willing to explore alternatives to the program, though there aren’t many other options available aside from starting an independent department.

“I would never just throw my hands up and say no,” he said.

Bielik said there is a resident trooper sharing program, but the program requires the towns that share a trooper to share a border. That means Beacon Falls and Prospect, though they make up the Region 16 school district, couldn’t share a trooper unless that requirement is changed.