Two towns may seek to share deputy

State trooper costs rising

could exceed $100,000 a year

`Something cheaper'

Sheriff's Department has potential savings of $10,000 per town

March 18, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

After nearly 13 years of sharing the services of a resident state trooper, New Windsor and Union Bridge might soon look to the county Sheriff's Department for protection.

Rising costs of the trooper program, which could exceed $100,000 in fiscal 2003, have Carroll's two smallest towns rethinking which agency can best serve them for the least cost.

Each town shares 75 percent of the cost: $94,000 in the current fiscal year for a trooper's salary, vehicle and equipment. The county picks up the remaining 25 percent.

Union Bridge Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr. wrote to the commissioners this month asking if the county would continue to pay a quarter of the yearly cost if the towns enter into a similar arrangement with the county Sheriff's Department. The county has made no decision and it is not clear when the commissioners will discuss it, officials said.

"The cost of the resident trooper program is going up about 5 percent a year," Jones said. "Our projected share of costs for next year would be about $36,000 for 20 hours of police protection a week.

"The state police have been wonderful and have provided us with top-notch protection," he said. "But, we have to look for something cheaper."

A sheriff's deputy is expected to cost about $78,000 annually, a potential savings of about $10,000 for each town based on projected costs, Jones said.

Lt. Terry L. Katz, commander of the Westminster state police barracks, said at the present rate the difference between a trooper and a deputy is $7,037.50 a year. Those numbers would change if the General Assembly enacts pay or benefits increases for troopers.

Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning said he would have no problem assigning a deputy to the towns.

"We have the personnel required for such an arrangement," Tregoning said. "We look forward to serving the public in any way we can."

Union Bridge Town Council has approved the change, as long as the county continues its contribution.

"Today's deputies are just as qualified," Jones said. "They are high-caliber officers. Sheriff Tregoning keeps his men well trained and right on track. The only difficulty may come with a criminal investigation, but state police get involved in those anyway."

New Windsor Mayor Samuel Pierce said the town is involved in the budget process now and will have to study the cost difference before making a decision.

"It will be a matter of economics for us," Pierce said. "The state trooper has done really well, and we know the Sheriff's Department does a good job."

The state trooper patrols both towns and a designated surrounding area, particularly the Route 75 corridor - a four-mile segment of highway that links the two communities. The towns have shared the trooper services since 1989.

"In the '70's, we had our own Police Department with two officers," said Jones.

"But, we were always a training ground for other departments who paid more. They would leave after six months. We never got our money's worth."

Union Bridge had its own resident trooper after that. But by 1989, the town found it could no longer afford its own officer, and it worked out an arrangement with neighboring New Windsor.

Although both towns have grown significantly in the past decade, neither has seen an increase in crime.

But if growth continues, Jones said, the towns might need to share two deputies.

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