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Bristol police given new tool to fight crime in park

BRISTOL — In response to public debate over how Bristol officials should handle a recent uptick in offensive behavior like swearing and fighting on the town green, the Bristol selectboard last Monday gave the Bristol Police Department the power to issue 30-day no trespass orders for all town properties.
While there are no stipulated rules for when and on what basis a no trespass order can be issued, there are two tiers of oversight aimed at making sure this power isn’t abused. First, Town Administrator Bill Bryant will review all of these orders after they are issued.  Second, all orders are subject to appeal by the selectboard.
If, after 30 days, the selectboard feels that a violator should not be allowed back on town property, the board can extend the no trespass order. Also, if an individual violates the order, the town can issue them a municipal ticket and fine.
Bryant explained how he and Police Chief Kevin Gibbs came up with this method for dealing with poor behavior on town property.
“The police have to make a judgment call as to whether or not the behavior is rising to the level of a disorderly conduct citation,” said Bryant. “That seems a little bit further than we want to go, and yet wagging your finger at them and not having anything to back it up doesn’t seem like a very good response either.”
As for the lack of guidelines in issuing one of these orders, Bryant and the board feel the review and appeal process should suffice.
“I think the checks and balances are appropriate, and we would not use these (orders) lightly,” said Bryant. “It’s a park — people are allowed to hang out in the park.”
In other news from the selectboard’s meeting last week, the board:
• Decided to hire a full-time officer to replace officer Ed Shepherd.
“This is to fill the vacancy created by the medical retirement of officer Ed Shepherd, which was the result of an injury he received on a fire call,” said Bryant.
No contract details for the new officer were released.
• Met with Kristen Underwood of the Bristol Conservation Commission to talk about the Eagle Park fishing platform on River Road by Lincoln, which was previously wiped out by Tropical Storm Irene when it was near completion.
The platform and adjacent landscaping are almost complete, but the project cost the town $9,500 more than anticipated because of Irene, said Bryant.
The board also allocated $1,000 from the conservation fund for perennials and the construction of a kiosk in the park.
• Reorganized line items in the landfill budget and general fund budget. The selectboard previously moved recycling budget items from the landfill to the general fund to absorb some costs, but scrap metal ended up generating money for the general fund. Scrap metal will now go back into the landfill budget and recyclables like newspapers and other paper will remain in the general fund.
• Discussed Police Officer Josh Otey’s work for the U.S. Marshals. The town will pay his salary when he works for the Marshals and will receive a later reimbursement.
• Mentioned that town officials scheduled a date to go to small claims court to deal with a case involving Bristol resident Ted Lylis and the town. The dispute is over drainage issues that affected Lylis’ property after the town repaved a road. 
Reporter Andrew Stein is at andrews@addisonindependent.com

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