Federal grant to help Vergennes hire another police officer

VERGENNES — The city of Vergennes has been awarded a federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Grant worth $133,313 that will fund a sixth full-time member of the city’s police department for the next three years.
City Manager Mel Hawley said a condition of the grant is that Vergennes must agree to retain the position for at least one more year, meaning that the city force will expand for at least four years.
Hawley said Vergennes will move to add another officer as soon as possible, and that the grant would fully fund base pay, training and a uniform for the new hire.
Hawley was pleased to hear of the grant, one of six totaling about $1.3 million made to Vermont towns; a seventh went to the University of Vermont. Gov. Shumlin announced the grants on Wednesday.
The Vergennes police force’s number of calls has increased by about 50 percent in the past two years, Hawley said.
“Our calls for service have gone up,” Hawley said.
Hawley said having a six-man force — Chief George Merkel, Sgt. Patrick Greenslet and four patrolmen — will not mean 24/7 coverage, but will increase hours officers will be on duty and “certainly fill in some of the gaps” at important times in the schedule.
The extra manpower will also mean the force can more easily deal with sick time, vacations and holidays, he said, and probably keep a lid on some overtime costs.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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