Northlands to pay for city police work

VERGENNES — Vergennes and Northlands Job Corps have struck a deal that will pay the city $51,000 a year for police services, including student outreach and mentoring and staff training as well as law enforcement.
The city has for 21 years sought compensation from the state or federal government or the private contractors that operate the federal job training program on state property in Vergennes, and city officials hailed the breakthrough at a council meeting on Tuesday.
Until 1999 the city regularly received amounts that topped out at a little more than $100,000 annually to host Northlands. Those funds were promised the city as part of a three-way deal between the U.S. Department of Labor, which oversees the national Job Corps program; the state, which owns the roughly 60-acre campus that once housed the Weeks School; and Vergennes officials.
But in 1999 U.S. DOL attorneys ruled those payments were an illegal form of taxation, and except for a one-time payment approved by Congress the well ran dry. City Manager Dan Hofman said this contract has been vetted to not run afoul of the DOL.
On Wednesday morning Hofman credited management of the current Northlands operator, the Kentucky firm Education and Training Resources (ETR), for approaching Vergennes officials about a contract for services.
Specifically, Hofman praised ETR President and CEO Brian Fox, who flew up from Kentucky to sit in on talks, and Center Director Mike Dooley.
“They want more public outreach. They want to be more involved with the community,” Hofman said.
Although in recent years Northlands’ recruiting territory has expanded to include all of Vermont and the percentage of in-state students has increased, the center still educates a population that includes significant percentage of students of color. Hofman sees that situation as an opportunity for the Vergennes Police Department to model for Vermont how to interact with a minority population.
“I am hopeful, beyond the money, that this could set an example for the state of Vermont,” Hofman said. “I am so excited about this.”
Hofman said Police Chief Merkel already meets with new Northlands students on a weekly basis and the department already responds to calls there. Hofman envisions the relationship described in the contract as an expansion of the department and Merkel’s existing community policing approach to the Job Corps center.
“Chief does so much of this already,” he said.
The contract includes a statement of purpose:
“The purpose and primary objective of this Professional Services Agreement (PSA) is to expand the use of VPD training and educational resources, over and above normally required and negative law enforcement interactions, in order to develop a more positive and supportive culture between the Northlands Center, its students, and the Vergennes community and its residents.
It also lists activities and actions city police can or are expected to take:
“The VPD will also interact directly and proactively on campus and in face-to-face meetings, assemblies, and student and staff training opportunities to support the following actions and activities, which include but are not limited to:
•  Participating on the Center Community Relations Council
•  Assigning a VPD point of contact for non-emergency issue guidanc.
•  Introducing new students to the community and describing the role of VPD
•  Evaluate Campus Access/Control Methods-Security Camera Systems
•  Educating Students/Staff on what Constitutes an Emergency and Who to Contact
•  Conducting Q & A Sessions addressing Common Mistakes our Students Make and how to avoid them
•  Training or group discussions on Alcohol and other Drug Abuse
•  Training on consequences for public consumption of alcohol or other drugs, consequences for providing to minors
•  Staff Training and Coordination of Emergency Responses
•  Coordinate, Perform or Evaluate Active Shooter Drills
•  Training for NJCC Security Officers (bullying, de-escalation techniques, gang identification, intervention, chain of custody, report writing, emergency response).”

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