Leyden Public Safety Advisory Committee dissolves after two years

The Leyden Town Offices.

The Leyden Town Offices. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 01-07-2024 12:22 PM

LEYDEN — With the town having achieved an intermunicipal policing agreement, a growing Fire Department and an ambulance contract, Leyden’s Public Safety Advisory Committee officially dissolved in December, just three days from its two-year anniversary.

While the committee has disbanded after all of these accomplishments, its work is not actually finished, as three of its members — Chair Elizabeth Kidder, Anders Ferguson and Marcia Miller — will merge with the Leyden Emergency Management Committee to will continue working on public safety planning for the town’s departments.

Kidder said many members of the committee had already been attending several meetings throughout the week and the Public Safety Advisory Committee’s discussion topics often coincided with the Emergency Management Committee’s.

“It seemed to make sense to become a part of that committee and look at long-term planning for public safety,” she said. “We feel very satisfied with what we’ve accomplished over the last two years.”

The committee was created by the Selectboard in late 2021 and was tasked with looking at the town’s public safety options and looking into a state regionalization grant. Kidder said the committee’s lifespan was set to end when the town spent the grant money, if it was awarded.

In early 2022, the town was awarded an $187,000 Efficiency and Regionalization grant by the Baker-Polito administration, which allowed the Public Safety Advisory Committee to undertake its task of examining the town’s public safety departments.

Topping the list of accomplishments by the Public Safety Advisory Committee is the inking of a shared-policing agreement between Leyden and Bernardston in 2022.

The town was without a police chief since its previous one had retired in 2021 and the town used the grant funding to work with its neighbors on a shared-policing agreement — with some help from consultants from the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Edward J. Collins Center for Public Management.

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After months of planning and public forums with residents, the two towns eventually agreed on a one-year trial run of the agreement in June 2022, which was extended again to a three-year agreement in 2023.

While a long-term agreement is in place, the two towns have also formed a Police Services Task Force composed of Selectboard and Finance Committee members as well as citizen representatives from each town, who will all ensure the continued partnership works smoothly.

Other work taken on by the committee includes the revitalization of the Fire Department, which, in early 2023, was down to just one man: Chief Nikolas Adamski. Through recruitment efforts and working with Adamski, the department has risen from the ashes and now has seven members, including an assistant chief and captain.

Beyond providing public safety services for its own residents, Kidder said the shared-policing agreement and the rebuild of the Fire Department gives Leyden a voice on the regional stage and also allows the town to reciprocate the mutual aid it receives from neighboring communities.

“Now we have some people who can fight the fires, too, and not just bring the vehicles,” Kidder said, adding that they can take “more pride in being able to participate in mutual aid.”

While the town was working out those services, Kidder said “Leyden has such appreciation for all the support” it has received from around the region, especially from Bernardston, Colrain and Guilford, Vermont.

“Their chiefs have been there for our firefighters, giving them advice and support throughout this process of rebuilding our department. The coming together of the fire departments to help us and to share training opportunities has been invaluable,” Kidder said. “Leyden is hoping to increase our ability to provide them with assistance through mutual aid as our department continues to grow in numbers and experience.”

Kidder added that Leyden also negotiated a contract with Colrain Ambulance, which is now the primary ambulance service for Leyden. Colrain Ambulance is reimbursed $375 for every trip into town.

As the Public Safety Advisory Committee’s spirit lives on in the Emergency Management Committee and the Police Services Task Force, Kidder said the community engagement and support throughout these processes is what made it successful.

“A majority of the community came together to work on this issues. … In a town of 738, you need a lot of people to step up,” Kidder said. “We need to continue that enthusiasm.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.