Selectboard Vice Chair Bruce Cheeseman 10-7-2109

Bruce Cheeseman, the vice chair of the St. Albans Town selectboard, looks over his selectboard packet during a regular meeting of the town selectboard.

ST. ALBANS TOWN – St. Albans Town will be contracting with the St. Albans Police Department(SAPD) for at least one more year.

The town’s selectboard agreed to an optional fifth year of their policing contract during the board’s regular meeting Monday, voting unanimously to continue the contract following the recommendations of the town’s police advisory council.

The town’s current contract with SAPD runs from 2016 to 2019, with optional extensions for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 fiscal years. The town agreed to the first optional extension last year.

This second optional year – fifth overall – agreed to by the town Monday night is expected to cost the town $810,000 according to the town’s current contract with the SAPD. The contract earmarks the majority of that funding – $743,000 – for personnel costs at SAPD, with another $67,000 slated for emergency dispatch services provided by SAPD.

Upon agreeing to the fifth year of a contract, the board promised that, as the contract comes to an end ahead of the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the board would once again put the town’s policing contract out to bid before agreeing to any new long-term policing contracts.

“It’s a very large contract. It’s the largest contract the town has,” the selectboard’s vice chair, Bruce Cheeseman, said. “So I think we’ve got to do our due diligence by putting it out to bid to see what we can get out there for competitive fees on this.”

Part of the board’s agreement to renew for an optional fifth year was the fact that, as selectboard chair Brendan Deso noted, there’d be no time for any kind of formal bidding process, as St. Albans City required a written notice on the renewal by the end of 2019.

“We’ve been talking and I think we should renew,” Deso said. “In the span of time that we have before us, we couldn’t put out [a request for proposals] even if we wanted to as a body.”

“We can get working on redefining what we think we need for police coverage in the future and put out an RFP next year for other law enforcement agencies to put bids in on,” he added.

The town has contracted with the SAPD since 2011, switching from the St. Albans Town-based Franklin County Sheriff’s Office in what, at the time, was a controversial decision leading to a petition from residents and a lawsuit filed by the sheriff against St. Albans City.

Both of those challenges were resolved, with the selectboard voting against the petition and the FCSO’s challenge ending in the city’s favor, and the town’s continued to contract with SAPD since.

In early 2018, St. Albans Town agreed to join St. Albans City in funding the creation of a street crimes unit (SCU), a policing unit formed by the SAPD in order to focus on drug-related crimes through more targeted enforcement and saturation patrols.

The SCU has since been heralded by law enforcement agencies statewide for its effectiveness, with the previous commander of the Vermont State Police’s St. Albans Barracks telling the selectboard as such this July.

At least one other Vermont law enforcement agency, the Barre City Police Department, has modeled its own SCU off of St. Albans’s.

The Town of Highgate recently contracted for policing services with SAPD, a development SAPD chief Gary Taylor, when seeking approval for that contract from the St. Albans City Council, assured wouldn’t interfere with SAPD’s ability to continue serving St. Albans City and St. Albans Town.

With the selectboard’s signature Monday night, St. Albans Town’s current contract with SAPD is now set to expire in 2021.