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Sgt. Deanna Strout, center, during her interview with the Select Board on Tuesday. The 23-year veteran of the Dalton force was selected unanimously to take the role of police chief on Thursday.

Dalton Select Board Taps Strout for Police Chief

By Joe DurwiniBerkshires Correspondent
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DALTON, Mass. — Sgt. Deanna Strout will assume leadership of the police force she has served for 23 years, Select Board members decided unanimously Thursday.

"I think she's the best fit for our community," Chair Robert Bishop summarized the consensus.

Strout, who said she has wanted to be a police officer "since I was 5 years old," has been acquainted with the local force for most of her life. Her uncle, George Wendling, served on the force for 30 years, and Strout became more involved through the Dalton Police Explorers in her youth.

The Dalton candidate had emerged as one of three finalists interviewed earlier this week from a crop of 24 applicants that a local search committee has been working to narrow with help from a consultant at Public Safety LLC. Other finalists included Detective Sgt. Jamie Berger of the Wayland Police Department and Cpt. Robert Derksen of the Cortland (N.Y.) County Sheriff's Department.

The other two had scored slightly lower than Strout on skills assessment testing administered as part of the selection process, and Select Board members (minus Marc Strout, who recused himself) felt that she most satisfactorily addressed the concerns outlined in Tuesday's interview questions.

Her existing relationship with Dalton and its police force was seen as a plus, as well.

"She is very loved by the community and highly respected by the community and highly respected by the businesspeople," Bishop expressed. "We had many letters of support for her, especially from some of the major business leaders in town."

"Community policing is at the core of this candidates policing DNA," agreed Selectman Joseph Diver.

Following a 4-0 vote to offer her the position, the board congratulated Strout, who Zoomed in to express her thanks. Selectmen Diver and Daniel Esko will begin working with her on contract negotiation.

Dalton Police have been without a permanent police chief for the better part of a year, since former Chief Jeffrey Coe first was placed on paid leave, then stepped down in a settlement agreement reached with the town in July. It has been under the direction of interim Chief Anthony Riello, formerly chief of the Pittsfield Police.

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Dalton Traffic Commission Adds Support to Infrastructure Ask

By Joe DurwiniBerkshires Staff

DALTON, Mass. — The town's Traffic Commission fully supports a proposal by Select Board member John Boyle to try to advance a walkway project for the Housatonic Street bridge for possible funding under the anticipated federal infrastructure bill.

The project had been fully engineered and slated to be part of a previous federal road project completed in 2018, but was deleted from the final draft. Boyle has pointed out that the way the current sidewalk ends at the bridge is unsafe for pedestrians.

Based on most recent engineering, the estimated cost for the walkway would be around $3 million.

"Which is chicken feed, when you're talking about federal funds and billions of dollars in construction," Boyle told the Select Board, adding that U.S. Rep. Richard Neal's office believes it to be "a worthy project, easily fundable."

Dalton's Traffic Commission has now voted unanimously in favor of the plan, and pledged to write a letter of support to Neal's office, new Town Manager Tom Hutchinson reported on Monday.

"Everything is based on an infrastructure plan being approved by the U.S. Government, and [this] funding becoming available to communities," said Hutchinson.

In other town business:

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