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Vernon Petitioners Hope Revote Will Restore Funding For Town Police

Susan Keese
The Vernon Police Department occupies part of the town office complex.

Vernon residents may be asked to rethink their unexpected Town Meeting vote to eliminate funding for the town’s police department.  A petition is circulating in town that calls for a special town meeting to reconsider the original $2.1 million dollar budget proposed by the town select board.

An amendment from the floor during Vernon’s town meeting last week asked voters to remove a $300,000 line item for the Vernon Police Department. The amendment called instead for a $40,000 appropriation for police protection from the Windham County Sheriff or State Police.  The amendment passed by six votes.

Vernon resident Mike Ball drafted the petition for reconsideration. He says last week’s surprise vote reflects the town’s anxiety about the closing of Vermont Yankee later this year. But Ball says the decision demands more thought.

"The vote was 118 to 112,"  he says. "So only 230 people were in attendance out of the 1600-plus voters that we have in town. It didn’t seem right. We need to have a larger constituency there to make a decision of this magnitude."

Ball says the original budget included funds for 140 hours of police patrols. He says the money put back in by the amendment would pay for 18 hours from a contract law enforcement service.

"So even if the amendment went through and passed again," he says, "It would be for a much larger sum of money in order to provide for more patrol hours."

Ball says the petitioners have enough signatures now to call for a reconsideration of the budget. They plan to present the petitions to the select board on Monday.  Vernon’s school budget also failed in an Australian ballot last week, so a special town meeting will be required to deal with that as well.

Susan Keese was VPR's southern Vermont reporter, based at the VPR studio in Manchester at Burr & Burton Academy. After many years as a print journalist and magazine writer, Susan started producing stories for VPR in 2002. From 2007-2009, she worked as a producer, helping to launch the noontime show Vermont Edition. Susan has won numerous journalism awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for her reporting on VPR. She wrote a column for the Sunday Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus. Her work has appeared in Vermont Life, the Boston Globe Magazine, The New York Times and other publications, as well as on NPR.
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