May 31--GROTON -- Residents of Groton Long Point have decided to pay for the entire cost of their police force.
The Saturday decision came after the Representative Town Meeting voted to cut the $208,000 the town provides to the subdivision for its police department.
"The membership voted overwhelmingly to increase their taxes and pay for the police," said Bob Congdon, president of the Groton Long Point Association, on Sunday. "We reduced our public safety budget by $80,000 and the taxpayers are paying the other $120,000 through an increase in the mill rate. We view that as a short-term solution. This summer, with hundreds of kids coming out, we didn't want to have no police for them."
The decision came at the subdivision's annual budget meeting on Saturday morning, which is held at the start of Memorial Day weekend, when the area's population starts to increase with summer residents.
Members of the Groton RTM voted to eliminate Groton Long Point's police funding, arguing that the town could spend the same amount of money to police the area itself. The town's share was about one-third of the subdivision's public safety budget, which includes a police force of a chief and four officers and summer lifeguards.
The town is required to pay Groton Long Point to maintain its roads, but is under no legal obligation to pay for the independent police force, according to the Groton Long Point charter. However, the town shares a responsibility for policing the area, so it would be required to expand its patrols should Groton Long Point opt to eliminate its own patrols, according to a recent decision by the town attorney.
Efforts to reverse the RTM vote, led by members of the Groton Long Point delegation, were unsuccessful, meaning the cut is effective July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
The 600 households will split the additional costs according to the subdivision's existing tax rate, Congdon said. The average homeowner will now pay an extra 59 cents a day to finance the public safety department.
"That's basically peanuts," Congdon said.
Once the summer is over and Groton Long Point's population declines, the subdivision plans to create a committee to work with the town government to find a permanent solution to the police funding issue, Congdon said. Officials want to meet with their town counterparts to find out if their funding could be restored or what police coverage from the town would be like.
"Of course, it's up to the town to meet with us," Congdon said. "But if they're willing, we're willing."