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Montgomery board eyes police services contract with Franklin sheriff

2019-09-30

In 2018, VCRD brought its Community Visit program to Montgomery. Residents prioritized "improving traffic flow and pedestrian safety" as key to improving the town.

As seen in vtdigger.org: https://vtdigger.org/2019/09/30/montgomery-board-eyes-police-services-co...

Montgomery officials are considering contracting for police services with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department.

“There’s a lot of traffic that goes through Montgomery heading to Jay Peak,” Sheriff Roger Langevin said. “So they’re looking for basically some pedestrian and motor vehicle safety-related enforcement up there.”

The town, about 15 minutes from the popular ski resort, does not have its own police department and is covered by the Vermont State Police barracks in St. Albans. 

The Selectboard plans to hear community input on the idea during its meeting next Monday.

Board members discussed the proposal during their Sept. 23 meeting. Chair Charlie Hancock was optimistic that night about securing a contract that would meet “narrowly defined town needs,” according to the meeting minutes.

Neither Hancock nor other board members responded to a request Monday for comment.

The push for police services could be linked to the town’s bid for revitalization. 

“I think they’re being proactive, identifying that they do have a lot more traffic going through their town,” Langevin said. “They’re trying to reinvent themselves … They just expect to be more active as a community.”

The town has been engaged this year in a community-improvement effort called “Montgomery Thrives,” which grew out of meetings held with residents last fall by the Vermont Council on Rural Development.

Residents in those meetings identified improving traffic flow and pedestrian safety as key priorities for the town.

“Montgomery has an incredible asset in its two village centers, local businesses lining Main Street, area attractions and scenic beauty drawing visitors to and through town,” notes a report on the effort. “Many are concerned, however, about the ability of the village and center to handle increased traffic and are worried about the safety of locals and visitors alike.”

Data from the Vermont Agency of Transportation offers a mixed, and incomplete, picture of yearly traffic on Montogomery’s main roads — state routes 118 and 242.

At one mile-marker on Route 118, the average volume of daily traffic went from 1,600 in 2010 to 1,800 in 2015, the latest year available.

But at a different mile-marker on the same road, the average traffic volume dropped from 2,300 in 2010 to 2,000 in 2015.

And at the only location studied on Route 242, average traffic volume declined from 1,300 in 2010 to 1,200 in 2015.

State police traffic-stop data has been erratic since 2010. Troopers made 25 stops that year. That figure shot up to 79 in 2011, and then to 96 the next year. The numbers dropped back to 25 stops in 2013, before climbing to 31 in 2015 and 53 in 2016. The number of stops sank to 21 in 2017, but in 2018 they increased to 54.

The community report from the rural development council also mentions a “theft problem” in Montgomery. But it notes that because “many people do not want a police presence,” a community-watch program, rather than more law enforcement, could be the solution.

Langevin said he had met informally with Hancock to discuss options for a contract, but all plans are preliminary. He said his department is happy to work with towns on pinpointing their specific needs, and he wants to hear more about what Montgomery is looking to address.

The department currently has service contracts in the towns of Enosburg, Fairfax, Georgia, Richford and Sheldon.

Langevin said many towns in the county are looking to innovate, the same way Montgomery is. 

“If we can be a part of that, that’s awesome,” he said. “The towns do well, we do well.”