Law enforcement tops selectmen’s agenda

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen continued discussion of local law enforcement at their Oct. 18 meeting.

The topic was first raised several meetings earlier by board member John Melrose. Melrose thinks calling the town’s policeman, currently Mark Brown, the police chief is misleading, because he is in charge of no other officers and works part-time, in Brown’s case 15 hours a week.

“Police chief” is the title selectmen have used for Brown and at least one of his predecessors, Richard Phippen. The job description, last revised in 2016, is titled “Police Officer Job Description.”

Town Manager Mary Sabins and Melrose collaborated on a re-revised draft discussed Oct. 18 but not approved. Language has been amended to make it clear that the local policeman is not always on duty. Selectmen considered additional changes, with suggestions from Brown, firefighter and former Town Manager Michael Vashon and other audience members.

Melrose suggested the local police officer needs neither a police vehicle nor a weapon. His ideas were not supported.

There was consensus that Brown should be primarily what people called a community policeman or a resource officer, making himself visible at public events, Vassalboro Community School and elsewhere in town. More serious and/or time-consuming problems should be left or transferred to the state police or the Kennebec County sheriff’s office, whichever is covering Vassalboro that week.

State and county officers take two-week turns covering municipalities, Brown said. Melrose commented that communication among state, county and local officers sometimes seems inadequate.

The discussion touched briefly on the proposed reorganization of Augusta-based regional dispatching services, due to be completed in the summer of 2019, with so-far-unknown effects on local emergency services.

In other business at the lengthy Oct. 18 meeting:

  • After a very short public hearing that brought no comments, selectmen approved annual renewal permits for five automobile graveyards and three auto hobbyists.
  • Vashon, speaking for the volunteer fire department, got approval to use $25,000 from surplus to help reduce the price of a new fire truck, if the department gets a grant for most of the cost. Vashon said the department is looking at a $350,000 truck, hopes for gifts to help reduce the price and expects to hear next spring whether the grant application is approved.
  • Board Chairman Lauchlin Titus reported on a meeting he attended with representatives of other Central Maine towns to get updated information on energy-efficient street lights. “I left very encouraged,” he said, but he is not ready to recommend a commitment without still more information.
  • Selectmen approved revised rules for Vassalboro cemeteries, pending one clarification that Cemetery Committee Chairman Jane Aiudi thought would not be a problem. The next Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening, Nov. 1.

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