Town seeks police bids

St. Albans force, sheriff contest being anticipated

Ian Lord

By Ian Lord

Staff Writer

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ST. ALBANS — The Town of St. Albans on Wednesday released its request for proposals (RFP) for a new police services contract.

The proposals to be completed by area police agencies interested in providing law enforcement coverage for the town are due to the town on Friday, Oct. 25, said Town Manager Carrie Johnson.

A study conducted by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns (VLTC) outlined what services from a law enforcement agency the town would need. The RFP was designed taking the VLTC study into consideration, Johnson said.

Johnson anticipated the St. Albans Police Department — which is under contract to the town until June 30, 2014 — and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office would both submit proposals.

The town had employed the sheriff’s office exclusively until three years ago when the St. Albans force entered a competitive and successful bid. That set off a long but unsuccessful legal battle launched by the sheriff, who claimed St. Albans Police had capitalized on an unfair advantage.

The RFP details the town’s next contract terms, which would once again be for three years, ending on June 30, 2017. Two fixed-priced one year extensions are included in provisions, according to the RFP. The town still holds the option on extending the St. Albans Police contract for a year.

The agency awarded the contract is required to provide all regular police services, including investigations, traffic patrols, dispatch services for police and fire departments and crime prevention, among several other duties.

Police coverage in the town is to be 24 hours per day, seven days per week and 365 days per year. The town is requesting 227.5 total man hours per week for 52 weeks a year, allowing the selected agency the flexibility to schedule the minimum full-day coverage, plus an additional 8.5-hour shift to be assigned at the agency’s discretion.

One officer from the selected agency will assume supervisory duties and will be available to respond to the town at all times. That officer must be able to communicate to his or her agency if additional services are required.

The selected agency is required to keep up to date with state training, equipment and facility regulations.

When submitting proposals, agencies are asked to include details about their chains of command, planned staff schedules and backup assistance plans. Information about insurance and a transition plan to assume jurisdiction also will be submitted.

While not explicitly stated in the RFP, Johnson has said previously that the town’s growth center near the new Walmart store off Route 7-North will account for more police attention.

In the VLTC study, conducted by former Williston Police Chief Doug Hoyt, the northern growth center was identified as a specific area of focus for the town and whatever agency provides future police services.

Detailed budget proposals also are necessary for agencies interested in signing a contract with the town. The budget quotes will account for staffing and expanded man hours, if deemed necessary by the town.

Any questions about the RFP must be submitted in writing to the town by Monday, Oct. 21.

When selecting the agency to provide police services, the town will take into considerations issues beyond the price of the proposed contracts. The RFP states, “The town may select a respondent that offers a price higher than the lowest price among the responsible, eligible and qualified respondents if it is determined that the additional merit offered is worth the additional price/cost in relation to the other proposals received.”

For the past three years, the contract with the St. Albans Police Department has paid that agency: $486,851 for July 1, 2011 to July 1, 2012; $508,465 for the same period in the second year; and $513,604 for the current final year of the contract, ending next June 30.

Town officials, both administrative and elected, will evaluate the agencies vying for the next police contract, by looking at financial, management, logistical and technical capabilities. Johnson said a decision has to be made by the town no later than Jan. 1, 2014.

The last time the town sent an RFP for police services, the sheriff’s department sued St. Albans City saying its bid didn’t reflect actual costs and was an attempt to create a police services monopoly in the region. In 2010, the city’s bid came in $100,000 less than the sheriff’s bid.

The sheriff’s claim was denied in both Superior Court and the Vermont Supreme Court.