Bristol police budget revised for July vote

BRISTOL — Bristol selectmen last week, working with Police Chief Kevin Gibbs, whittled down a police district spending plan for 2010-2011 that voters initially rejected on May 24 amid complaints about the rapidly rising cost of supporting the department.
The new cuts call for canceling the town’s contract with the Addison County Sheriff’s Department; relocating the police department after Dec. 31 to Howden Hall; and trimming overtime pay for the department’s four officers.
The new budget stands at $372,653, of which $314,403 would be raised by taxes on residents in the Bristol police district. Town Administrator Bill Bryant said the new amount would reflect a 9 percent increase in the amount to be raised by taxes if voters approve the new spending plan. That’s down from a project 12.5 percent hike under the original spending proposal, which voters narrowly rejected in a 15-14 paper ballot. 
The new budget will come up for a vote on July 19 at 7 p.m. at the Bristol Rescue Squad headquarters.
In all, selectmen, Bryant and Gibbs decided to cut $10,000 from the amount to be raised by taxes.
The biggest cost-saving measure calls for giving up the town’s contract with the Addison County Sheriff’s Department for police patrols outside of the police district but within the town of Bristol. Currently, the town pays the sheriff’s department to patrol Bristol roads outside of the police district boundaries for between eight and 12 hours a week.
Rather than paying that $10,000 contract to the sheriff, the money will go to Bristol police, who will expand their speed patrol area to encompass the entire town. The change is expected to mean a slight decrease in the police department’s revenues, because Bristol police previously have conducted “perimeter patrols” around the edges of town to catch and fine speeders.
Under the new proposed arrangement, ticket money from speeding tickets issued outside the police district would head back to the town in the form of revenue for the town’s general fund, up to $14,000 each year. After that, the police department would keep any additional revenue.
Another change calls for cutting the department’s proposed facilities costs for the next fiscal year by $4,000, from $12,000 to $8,000. Facilities constituted one of the reasons for the sharp spike in spending that the department anticipated for the coming year, because the department expected to rent office space now that its previous headquarters in Holley Hall have been eliminated by the renovations now in progress.
The new plan calls for using $4,000 to pay rent for the temporary town offices at 6 South St. until Dec. 31, and then using the rest of the budgeted $8,000 to rewire offices in Howden Hall to make the communications infrastructure suitable for police work.
Bryant said that while the police department’s move to Howden Hall will be a burden on the historical society that currently uses the building, he thinks the building could make an appropriate temporary space for the department for the next five to eight years.
The cost of rewiring the offices will go toward putting in alarms, security cameras, secure DSL lines, and telephones, among a few other small changes.
Finally, the revised budget also cuts $2,000 from the overtime line item, which includes wages for shift differentials, holiday pay, training, “call outs” in the middle of the night, and extra time that officers spend in court. Bryant said the department hopes to eliminate the extra overtime by juggling the shifts of the department’s four employees.
Bryant said he hopes the revised budget addresses the concerns residents voiced at the May 24 police district meeting.
Reporter Kathryn Flagg is at [email protected].

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