The Recorder – Leyden Public Safety Advisory Committee presents its progress, introduces consultants

LEYDEN – During an information session at Town Hall this week, the Public Safety Advisory Committee introduced the consultants who will be working with the town on a feasibility study on emergency services and gave a brief overview of the committee’s progress since first convening in December.

The Public Safety Advisory Committee introduced Mike Edwards and Stephen Foley, consultants from the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Collins Center of Public Management, to the community as they undertake a feasibility study on the town’s various emergency services. The Collins Center’s partnership with Leyden is being funded through a $ 187,000 Efficiency and Regionalization grant that was awarded in March.

“We’ve had changes in our Police Department, but we’d been doing this study anyway,” said committee chair Elizabeth Kidder. “What the Collins Center is going to do is get better information for us.”

While the feasibility study will look at all areas of public safety – police, fire, emergency medical services and emergency management services – policing was the focal point of discussion on Wednesday as the challenges presented by the Massachusetts police reform law were laid out for residents.

“What we do is help local governments work better,” said Edwards, the project’s manager. “While we’re doing this feasibility study, we’ll be looking at all the little pieces. There are a lot of moving parts, but there is also an enormous opportunity. ”

He added the police reform law is something towns of all sizes are grappling with, especially as rules and regulations are being revised over time.

“The police reform legislation is a massive piece of legislation. It is evolving daily, ”he said. “They’re building a plane as they’re flying.”

Edwards said the administrative burden will have a “devastating impact” on small-town departments as paperwork requirements “explode.”

“It’s not going to be something that can be done part-time,” Edwards said. “The market is about to get very, very competitive for police.”

Residents were also given a brief overview of an interim shared policing agreement with Bernardston, which is awaiting signatures from both towns’ selectboards. If agreed to, Bernardston’s Police Department would provide on-call service for approximately 600 hours a month, and have dedicated patrol and office hours for 80 hours a month. If residents feel they need more coverage, Kidder said hours are easily adjustable as a task force will be meeting with Bernardston Police Chief James Palmeri each month.

In financial terms, Leyden would pay roughly $ 85,644 per year if it partners with Bernardston. Currently, the town budgets $ 75,000 for policing services, according to a slideshow presented at the information session.

If both towns find the partnership to be beneficial, they can begin negotiating a permanent agreement, which would need to be approved by residents at a future Town Meeting. If either town finds the agreement is not working, it can be severed on 120 days’ notice. If severed, Leyden’s police equipment and cruisers would be returned to the town.

Following the presentation, residents were given the chance to ask the committee and Collins Center questions.

“Why just jump ship? Why not work with what we’ve got? ” resident Digger Neipp asked about the interim shared policing agreement. “I think what we need to do is put money in our Police Department.”

Kidder and Finance Committee Chair Ginger Robinson said the interim agreement is a way to increase policing services in Leyden at a lower cost. Robinson said Leyden maintaining its own department could add approximately $ 100,000 to the budget.

“I thought it was going to be extremely expensive either way. Looking at the service, we’re getting all of that, all of that training… for $ 10,000 more than what we’re paying now, ”Robinson said. “I don’t want to ask you, as taxpayers, to add $ 100,000 to our department… when we can get what I feel like is really good service.”

Selectboard Chair Bill Glabach voiced his support for the interim agreement and encouraged residents to reach out to the Public Safety Advisory Committee with feedback on the agreement. He added that “Bernardston is our natural partner” as Leyden children attend Bernardston Elementary School.

“I dragged my feet for a long time on this thing. … The more I thought about it, if we don’t get out and test drive it, how are we going to know how it comes out in the end? ” Glabach said. “During this interim year with Bernardston, everybody should be in contact with this Public Safety (Advisory) Committee. If you see something happening, then let the committee know. ”

The draft interim shared policing agreement can be viewed at bit.ly/3w62TEr.

As the conversation carried on, the Public Safety Advisory Committee invited residents to continue the discussion at its next meeting, which will be held on May 18. Residents with questions, comments or concerns can email the committee at publicsafety@townofleyden.com.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.

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