BY ANDREAS YILMA
PROSPECT — Prospect officials look to appropriate American Rescue Plan Act funds for the Prospect Police Department and to see what the department needs.
The Prospect Town Council at its Dec. 6 regular meeting approved a total of $158,800 in federal COVID-19 relief money, or ARPA funds, to spend on several things for the police department including $68,000 for a new 2023 police cruiser, $10,000 for a Livescan Fingerprint Machine, $25,000 for future dashboard cameras, $25,000 for new duty weapons and $30,000 for tactical vests according to meeting minutes.
The town received $1.4 million of its total $2.8 million ARPA funds in June 2021 and received $400,000 so far this year in August. ARPA funds must be committed by 2024 and spent by 2026.
Town Council Chairman Jeffrey Slapikas said a needs assessment will still be done. He also said a day is going to come when the town will need a full time police department as well as a fire department.
The town has a resident state trooper town, which shares services with the town of Bethany.
Prospect police Lt. Nelson Abarzua said at the meeting he is having difficulty retaining the best people from the within the state. Within the last six months, he said officers have been lost to Woodbridge and Cheshire police departments as well as the federal court in New Haven.
One of the Abarzua’s proposals for the ARPA funds is to hire three full time officers, prioritizing internal candidates.
Abarzua said the days of being a part time police department are going to end and resident state trooper towns are gradually going on their own.
“Services with the state police are minimizing every quarter,” Abarzua said according to meeting minutes.
Slapikas said the town currently has 18 part time officers will go to 16 officers as some have left the department.
Abarzua said he is looking to hire the three full time officers as soon as possible and he is still recruiting but there isn’t much he can offer.
“All around Connecticut there is a diminishing pool of available officers,” Town Council member Stan Pilat said.
Pilat added nothing on a state level is going to change the situation and Prospect has to take care of itself.
Town Council member Theresa Graveline voted against the motion and stated she was opposed to the process and not the number.
“We talked about our process being information and cost gathering. Then we would commit the funds. We have actually being doing piece meal,” Graveline said. “The process is disturbing here. We aren’t looking at this in the big picture necessarily.”
Town Council Vice Chair Megan Patchkofsky said residents wanted to see improvements and equipment for the police department, that’s why town officials asked them to put this together.
Gravline said town officials aren’t addressing this as the entire big bucket of ARPA funds. She added that she doesn’t want to get to a point where officials say we committed already and we didn’t think about X or Y.
“At some point the money runs out. We need to start building into our budget,” Patchkofsky said. “This is a learning experience, and we need to look five years down the road. We need a much more in-depth Capital Improvement Plan.”