As published in the Record Journal, Tuesday April 10, 2012
By Russell Blair
WALLINGFORD — Republican Town Councilor Craig Fishbein believes stationing a police officer at the corner of Center and North Main streets is a waste of taxpayer dollars, and says he will raise the issue at Wednesday’s public hearing on the 2012-13 budget.
Last month, Fishbein requested under the Freedom of Information Act the duties, hours and compensation paid to officers who work at the uptown intersection. Police Chief Douglas Dortenzio said at the time he believed the position was covered under the police union contract, but a letter from Lt. Marc Mikulski to Fishbein says it is not.
“The specifics of this post are not mentioned in the current Wallingford Police Union Local 1570 Collective Bargaining Agreement,” Mikulski wrote in his response to Fishbein’s request.
Dortenzio, chief since 1990, declined to comment on the position Monday, but said last month that an officer working at the corner predated his time on the job and the primary responsibility of the post was to assist school children in crossing the street. The officer is also available to handle service calls.
Dortenzio said he would address the matter further on Wednesday.
Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said Monday that he believed the settlement of a grievance filed by the union many years ago led to an officer maintaining the post. He said the decision to assign an officer there was a judgment for the chief to make, and he heard people say they like seeing an officer uptown.
Fishbein said he thinks that the electronic crossing signs at the intersection are enough, and he didn’t think anybody is needed at the intersection to assist the schoolchildren. He would like to see the officer reassigned until the need for someone at the intersection is established. But Republican Councilor John LeTourneau disagreed.
“I like having the officer there, especially when the kids are crossing,” LeTourneau said. “I think it’s too big for a crossing guard. It’s a main intersection; there’s always a lot going on.”
LeTourneau, who owns Wallingford Lamp and Shade on Center Street, said having an officer there helps keep an eye on what’s happening uptown and downtown.
Democratic Councilor Jason Zandri, who has several young children, said he doesn’t think the “walk/don’t walk” signs are enough.
“I don’t think it’s enough for small children,” he said. “They look both ways, but then they walk out into the street.”
But Zandri that he believes a crossing guard could do the same job for less money. Of the people he’s talked to, he says about half support the officer on the corner and half think it’s a waste of money.
“I think if people understand the cost, we should leave it,” he said.
According to Mikulski’s letter, an officer is at the corner from 8:30 a.m. to 9:15 a.m., from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. and again from 2:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. The post is filled Monday through Friday, but not during the summer or school holidays. Officers rotate to cover the intersection.
Wednesday’s public hearing on Dickinson’s proposed budget is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the auditorium of Town Hall, 45 S. Main St.