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A facelift for Fairlee cruiser

Journal Opinion of Bradford, Vermont

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FAIRLEE — After nearly 50 years of near anonymity, Fairlee will have a police cruiser everyone should recognize immediately.

On Oct. 26, the selectboard approved police chief Jason Bachus's plan to buy colorful, reflective graphics for a cruiser he purchased in 2014. The grey 2011 Ford Taurus is being transformed into a clearly identifiable police cruiser, marked with "Fairlee Police" and the insignia on the chief's badge, and topped with a blue-light bar.

Throughout his 48-and-a-half years as police chief and town constable, the late Leon Marsh used his own car which was unmarked and had a portable blue light. As he approached retirement, town officials recognized that arrangement was unlikely to continue, and they began to plan to spend more for police services in the future.

At the 2013 town meeting, Marsh nominated Jason Bachus to succeed him, and Bacchus was elected town constable. The selectboard appointed him as chief of police shortly thereafter.

As Marsh did, Bachus provides part-time local police coverage, supplemented by two sub-contractors, the Vermont State Police and Orange County Sheriff's Department.

He also started out using his own car for on duty but, in August 2014, he bought the all-wheel drive Ford in Florida. Because he paid for it himself, he said, the only preapproval he needed was permission from the State of Vermont to use blue lights.

So far, Bachus said, he has put about $20,000 into the car and has been paying for the required commercial insurance. The cruiser has $23,000 worth of town equipment in it, including radios and radar.

Now the chief would like to sell it to the town. He will be asking the 2016 town meeting to buy the car for $10,000. The town would also have to pick up the insurance, presumably as an add-on to its existing policy that covers fire and rescue vehicles.

With approximately 50,000 miles on it, Bachus estimated the cruiser should last another four or five years at its current rate of use. He does not anticipate that to change, saying, "we have a pretty good balance between the three agencies."

Bachus also gave the board a new police policy and procedures manual that will be available in the town office for members of the public to review. He said it was based on Vermont League of Cities and Towns policies, as modified for a one-person department.

He added that the sheriff's department will be upgrading its tasers and may offer to donate the old ones to towns. Peter Berger and Cathy McGrath, the two selectboard members present at the meeting, advised that there should be "a public conversation" before the town considers whether to accept such an offer.

Bachus said that he is already certified to use a taser, which he described as "just a tool that can be utilized prior to the ultimate tool."


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Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015

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