(This story was first published in the May 9, 2013 edition of the Vermont Standard.)
By Katy Savage
KILLINGTON — In the midst of recent burglaries, Killington continues the transition phase of reestablishing its police force.
There have been five burglaries in the past couple weeks, according to First Constable Whit Montgomery. He believes some are related, some aren’t. Burglars have broken into homes and stolen copper wiring and other knick-knacks.
Montgomery is the only Killington constable left since one retired and another left for reasons Montgomery couldn’t comment on. There has been a posting for a chief of police on the town and state’s websites since March 20. Voters approved the formation of a police force at Town Meeting.
The position requires 10 or more years of experience, physical fitness and experience with back country and wilderness issues, among many other duties. The position is parttime and pays $18 to $21 per hour. It offers no benefits, no insurance and no paid time off. In seven weeks since its posting, four people have applied, according to Webb.
“The number of applications are certainly going to be limited by the salary, location and structure of the job, and we anticipated that,” Town Manager Seth Webb said.
The Town of Killington voted in March it would establish its own police department with a budget of $80,000.
Webb said after the chief is hired, 1-2 more part-time officers could be hired. Their salaries will be dependent on experience.
Webb said the salary and hours for the police chief are appropriate given Killington’s budget and enforcement needs. Webb said the police budget will include constable pay after the department is formed.
Montgomery said Killington is a challenging town and finding the right people to fill the positions is important.
“Your biggest asset is probably your mouth, you’ve got to resolve situations verbally as opposed having to go hands on with someone. That’s one of the biggest challenges, being so rural and having such a population shift. You’re by yourself a lot and you’ve got to get yourself out of sticky situations.
“Killington is a unique town,” he said. “In the winter we have a high of 16,000 people in the summer we have at high of 800.”
On the same state website where the Killington job is posted there is an advertisement for a police officer position in Manchester, which offers a salary range of $39,000 to $41,000. A posting for a police chief in Colchester has a salary range of $71,767-$91,720 with a “competitive benefit package.”
Woodstock Police Department Chief Robbie Blish was hired at $65,000 in 2011.
While the town looks for a chief, Montgomery said being the only responder in Killington is challenging. He receives help from the Vermont State Police and the Rutland Sheriff’s Department.
“There’s only so much time in one day for one officer, it’s following up on cases that come in and staying up on new cases,” said Montgomery, who added that he thinks the burglaries have nothing to do with lack of law enforcement in town.
Montgomery is working on increasing patrols, information sharing and reestablishing the neighborhood watch program.
Montgomery, who has been working for the town for 14 years and has background doing detective work, applied for the position a month ago.
“I don’t think it’s fair to the taxpayers, the town or the police chief, if they don’t have experience with situations that arise up here,” Montgomery said. “You don’t want to set someone up to fail.”
Some Select Board members suggested Montgomery for the chief position when they were putting the department together.
Montgomery makes $20.25 an hour and works 32 hours a week as constable. Montgomery said the relatively small salary didn’t deter him from applying.
“At this point, that’s all that’s needed, it’s best for the town,” Montgomery said. “(The salary) may be reevaluated in the future, but that’s fair for what’s needed.”
A search committee of the Vermont Committee Justice Training Council, a member of the Select Board and Webb are conducting interviews for the police chief.
“It will better equip our officers and give them the tools they need to do their jobs,” Webb said of the new police department.
Webb hopes to hire a police chief by June.
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