Town Council OKs new police officers

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PROSPECT — The ranks of Prospect police officers has grown by two.

The Town Council approved the creation of a new part-time police lieutenant position as well as the hiring a new part-time officer during its June 28 meeting.

The positions will add bodies to the pool of available town police officers. But the cost to the town will not increase because the total number of hours worked by officers will remain the same, making the addition budget-neutral, according to Mayor Robert Chatfield.

Chatfield explained Prospect police will now report to the new lieutenant, who will report to the resident trooper. Prior to the creation of the lieutenant position, police reported directly to the resident trooper.

A similar arrangement has worked well in Beacon Falls, according to Chatfield.

The lieutenant will earn $1 per hour more than other part-time officers, who make $26.75 an hour. All the positions are part-time and do not include any benefits.

With the new additions, Prospect has 13 available part-time officers, one full-time officer, and a resident trooper.

Nelson Abarzua, who was the resident state trooper for Prospect until his retirement last week, was hired to fill the part-time lieutenant position. John (Jack) Vagliante, a retired state trooper, was hired as the new part-time officer. They were sworn into their new roles earlier this week.

Trooper John Serra will temporarily take Abarzua’s place as resident trooper until the state appoints a permanent replacement, according to state police.

Some council members were hesitant to lend their support to the new lieutenant position because they felt the position’s duties were redundant.

The lieutenant would do many duties currently assigned to the resident trooper, according to council member Patricia Geary.

When Abarzua retired, Chatfield planned to replace him with someone with less experience who will therefore receive less pay, Chatfield said. To make up for the deficit in experience and maintain continuity, Abarzua will stay on part-time as lieutenant, he said.

“We’re not losing his expertise,” Chatfield said.

Council member Michael Scaviola said he supported the idea when it was originally proposed because the plan was to share a resident trooper with another town.

Initially Prospect was looking to share a trooper with Beacon Falls. That plan, however, fell through because Beacon Falls and Prospect don’t share a physical border and the state police wouldn’t allow them to share a trooper, according to Beacon Falls First Selectman Susan Cable.

“If we don’t change the resident trooper, we just have a superfluous person,” council member Theresa Graveline said.

Chatfield said he is still in discussions with state police about sharing a trooper with another town, but declined to specify which one.

Although most council members supported creating the position, some also had a hang-up over the job description. They wanted it to specifically state that the new position would not include any benefits.

Chatfield said he would amend the job description to spell out those issues.

Chatfield wanted to get the position approved so Abarzua could start work this week.

Graveline, however, said she didn’t feel a sense of urgency to approve the position before the job description was clarified.

The position passed 5-3, with Geary, Graveline, and Scaviola voting against it.