Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Sheriff would accomplish more joining with others

Conflicting stories:
In the Jan. 14 Addison Independent there was an article “Sheriff envisions a major expansion of service” and in the January 21 Addison Independent there was an article “Police agencies face evolving social needs.” Having read through these two articles and comparing the goals and objectives of each it would appear that there is a great deal of duplication in the two programs.
The Addison County Vision North program involves several existing nonprofit and state agencies including, Vergennes Police Dept., Vermont State Police, State’s Attorney’s Office, Vermont Department of Probation, Vermont Department for Children and Families, Addison County Restorative Justice, Counseling Service of Addison County, Age Well, WomenSafe, Turning Point Center, United Way, John Graham Shelter and the Addison County Community Trust.
The sheriff’s program, called The Addison County Community Support Program, would require hiring an in-house social services team, which would provide assistance with mental health and addiction counseling, restorative justice programs as well as other programs that already exist in Addison County.
The Addison County Vision North program, tailored after an already successful program in Rutland County would require no additional funding, only enhanced cooperation between the aforementioned agencies. The sheriff’s plan would require expanding their operating budget from $800,000 per year to $2.3 million per year.
The sheriff indicates that this would be done through donations, which would equal about $110 per household in Addison County. He also states that Vergennes, Bristol and Middlebury would continue to be the primary responders in their jurisdictions. If that is the case, those households would not need to contribute to this plan resulting in a much higher contribution for the households that would fall under this program. The money to fund the Addison County Community Support Program would be through donations and if the budget was not met he, the sheriff, “would approach local community buy ins.” What does that mean? More taxes?
This past weekend I received a request from the sheriff’s office asking for the $110 to fund this program. What happens to this money if the sheriff’s office cannot meet its budget and can’t get this program off of the ground; will the contributors get their money back or will it be absorbed into the sheriffs’ current budget?
It occurs to me that if the sheriff’s department were to join forces with Addison County Vision North that we would have a much more cohesive organization.
It’s not important to me that the police carry jumper cables, I’ll call AAA if I need roadside assistance. To quote Sheriff Newton, “I do not want to reinvent the wheel,” but it appears that by not cooperating with so many other organizations that have joined forces through Addison County Vision North that that is exactly what he is doing, at an expense of $1,500,000.
Michael Donnelly
Vergennes

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