Town faces State Police impasse

Fri, 04/22/2022 - 2:15am

“I’m going to hold firm that we should not be paying for them,” Town Manager Maryanne Crawford told the Town Council at its April 13 meeting.
First Warden André Boudreau had asked Crawford if she had an update on the situation with the R.I. State Police. It has been suggested by the state police that the town of New Shoreham should pay for state trooper presence during the summer. The state police have traditionally sent officers out for weekends during the busy season, at no added cost to the town. This year the state police have requested payment for the troopers.
Crawford told the council that the latest offer from the state was for Block Island to pay for one of the two troopers, at a cost of $45,000.
Boudreau said it looked like the town was at a “stalemate” with the state, and “the clock is ticking.” He went on to say that Police Chief Matt Moynihan cannot plan for the summer without knowing if he will have trooper support or not. Boudreau has pushed for including money in the budget to cover the expense of the troopers. The other councilors have not felt the same.
The prevailing view on the council has been that since Block Island has state roads, the state police are obligated to patrol them. Typically, the state police send troopers out on weekends in the summer, at no cost to the town. Crawford has advocated for resisting the pressure to pay for services that the town is entitled to.
Second Warden Sven Risom said he is “comfortable” not having money in the budget to pay the state police. He said he hoped the state and the
state police “can support the state roads.”
Council Member Keith Stover said: “Our position is abundantly just.” He said his concern was how to resolve the conflict “sooner rather than later.”
He said it seemed clear that the town had established its “battle line,” but that it was also clear the state had adopted a position “that they won’t deviate from.”
Crawford pointed out that the troopers come out for 12 weeks, working two shifts per weekend, which equates to 24 shifts for each officer. She said this represented about 12 percent of a state police officer’s yearly work, and about one percent of the total work done by the state police. She said she would prefer to “hang strong” and continue to work with the town’s lobbyist and representatives at the state level to come to a solution.
Council Member Martha Ball said she was “baffled” by the whole situation.
“We are a part of the state of Rhode Island,” Ball said. She went on to point out that Block Island is projected to send $3.2 million to the state in the form of meal tax alone for this year.
“I don’t even know why we’re talking about this,” she said. Ball also called it “delusional” to think that this was a one-time situation. If the town paid for troopers once, it would have to pay for them every year. “They’ll never go back,” Ball said.
Boudreau said he wanted to include a line item for this expense, so that if the town ended up having to pay, the money would not come out of the police department’s existing budget.
Risom asked if the money could be pulled from the reserves, if need be.
Finance Director Amy Land said that money can be pulled from the reserves in an emergency type of situation, if it is “extreme enough.”
Kim Gaffett spoke from the audience, saying that the budget is “maxed out.” She pointed out that the council cannot “invent any more money for this item,” and would have to make changes at the Financial Town Meeting by adding money to fund the state police while taking it from some other item.
The council approved the budget in its proposed format, with no line item for state police.