Editor’s Note: This story by Corey McDonald was first published by the Citizen on May 25.
An agreement to share police services made between Hinesburg and Richmond was briefly put on hold this month after the local police union stepped in.
Originally agreed upon in April, the inter-municipal agreement allowed for Richmond to make an advance request for a Hinesburg officer to respond to calls from Richmond at a rate of $50 an hour, or to patrol the town at a rate of $70 an hour, but only when the Hinesburg department has the staffing bandwidth.
The agreement was made to assist Richmond’s police department, which at the time was functioning with only two working officers.
But after the agreement was made, a grievance was filed by the New England Police Benevolent Association.
“We did one day of coverage, but it sounds like a grievance was filed,” Hinesburg Town Manager Todd Odit said at the town’s May 3 selectboard meeting. “So, despite our best efforts, that’s on hold. But the one shift we did cover did go well.”
The union and the town of Richmond negotiated and on May 19 signed off on two agreements — one to bolster the wage scale for Richmond police, and another setting parameters around when a Hinesburg cop could get called in to Richmond — giving Richmond police first right of refusal to work overtime.
“We got it all resolved last week, but essentially they wanted to make sure that union work was being done by union employees when we have them here in Richmond,” said Josh Arneson, Richmond’s town manager. “But they also understood that our situation right now is that we’re losing employees, and we need some extra help. So, they really, I think, wanted to make sure they put in some safeguards to make sure that the union employees were getting treated fairly for their contract.”
Arneson said he understands their concern, that they “need first right of first refusal here. They also wanted to make sure that we were continuing to look long term for recruitment and propose some wages at the board.”
Richmond’s policing situation went from bad to worse in recent weeks after their interim chief, Benjamin Herrick, sent in his resignation.
“His last day will be early June, so we are currently evaluating next steps of what we need to do,” he said.
Hinesburg, meanwhile, has begun to see some stability in its department’s ranks after a tumultuous year. After getting its budget voted down in March 2022, three of its six officers left for neighboring departments.
But things have stabilized a bit. The town recently hired a fifth officer who started last weekend.
Both towns have been in communication about possibly merging their two departments into one — which would mark the first time two municipalities in Vermont created a shared department — but that has been put on hold for now.