Hinsdale, Dalton Police Department Merger Feasible But Challenging
DALTON, Mass. — Municipal Resources, Inc. (MRI) informed the Select Board Monday at their meeting that merging Hinsdale’s and Dalton’s Police Departments is feasible but does come with challenges
Both towns would have to overcome organizational structures, new costs, and potential politics, MRI senior consultant David L. Kurz said.
The report makes: "recommended staffing levels, policies, procedures, various equipment, schedules, and budget expectations with a valid and expected outcome based on industry standards and best practices."
One component that MRI, who were hired by the town using grant funds, could not predict was the political components surrounding the potential changes caused by the department's culture and various other factors.
Some of these factors include the need to navigate through the: "intangible nuances of a community's perceived loss of independence, reduced oversight and supervision of a consolidated agency, loss of identity, and the anxiety of change,."
One concern raised by the board is how this change would affect Dalton Chief Deanna Strout and the added workload.
The consultant noted that after meeting with Strout they have full confidence in her ability and willingness to run a combined police department.
There are ways to overcome these challenges including the possibility of having a board of police commissioners as one potential solution, Town Manager Tom Hutcheson said.
It was also noted that a lieutenant would act as the chief's second hand to help relieve this possible extra stress.
If the town chooses to continue to pursue the merger, town officials will continue to explore ways to overcome reported challenges.
If both towns accept the merger, planning and organizing how the combined departments would work would begin.
Both towns would have to vote to make the merger complete.
Select Board Chair Joe Diver said he thought it was important to include an exit approach to reverse the merger, knowing that it hasn't worked in other communities.
"There have not been two towns of our size that have successfully done this in Massachusetts. This would be the first, Diver said. "There have been smaller towns, much, much smaller towns, but there's not been a town the size of Dalton regionalizing services with a town this size and scale. That's a challenge."
“We would need the town of Hinsdale to agree that they want a joint force, and that they would be willing to accept what Dalton would require for that to happen, Town Manager Tom Hutcheson said.
Dalton is in the process of getting accredited and going beyond the standards set by the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission.
The POST is in charge of creating a mandated certification process for police officers, desertification processes, suspension of certification, and retraining in the event of misconduct.
Due to this, it is likely there would be a "lag between town when creating an agreement.
It was made clear that the merger would definitely benefit Hinsdale but some members of the board also called into question if a merger is beneficial enough for Dalton to justify the added cost.
Both departments have experienced staffing challenges and a merger would not only relieve that strain improve services.
According to the report: "It is anticipated that the outcome will produce a higher array of police services, lower response times, reduction of overtime, eliminate duplication of efforts, and lower overall operating costs.”
"Additionally, it is expected that there will be enhanced training opportunities, improved management, as well as overall supervision possibilities. Fiscally, the combined purchasing power allows some comfort to the taxpayers supporting the service."
During the meeting, it was announced that Hinsdale is currently in the community engagement part of the process. Director of Services and Senior Consultant for MRI Sean Kelly said they are receiving positive feedback from the community.
Read a previous iBerkshires.com article for more information.
In other news:
It has been 2 months and the town has not heard from any prospective candidates for the town planner position. The town is going to revisit the town planner budget. This will be discussed further at the next select board meeting on Dec. 5.
The board appointed Tara Jones-Nutting as Reserve Dispatcher effective Nov. 28 contingent on conditions outlined in the offer letter.
They also appointed Cynthia Riggs-French as Alternate Council on Aging member, effective November 29 through June 30, 2025
The board voted to accept the third quarter franchise fee for Dalton Community Cable.
The board approved Common Victualler’s request for an Entertainment, Jukebox, Game Machine license and Class 2 Auto License for the following businesses:
- Dewey's Food Group LLC d/b/a Dewey's
- Public House
- VFW Post 9566
- Wilkinson Enterprise d/b/a Red's Speakeasy
- The Dalton Restaurant
- Wahconah Country Club
- American Legion Post # 155
- Kelly's Package Store
- TB & Co., Inc.
- OHM Variety, LLC d/b/a Greenridge Variety
- Paddy's Pub LLC
- Zinky's Pub
- Shire Breu-Hous, LLC
- OHM PIZZA, LLC, d/b/a Paisano
- Stationery Factory
- Silver Bear Distillery LLC/Silver Bear Distillery
- Azores Enterprises Inc. d/b/a Manny's
- Juice 'n Java
- Hot Harry's
- Saint Agnes
- Craneville Elementary School
- Nessacus Middle School
- Wahconah Regional High School
- Shire Donuts LLC
- Sweet Peas
- Dalton Auto Express
- Dalton Motors
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