Thursday, July 11, 2002

Slow down in Prouts Neck

Published in the Current

It’s summertime, which means slow down on Prouts Neck. The police are watching.

Sgt. Michael Barker of the Scarborough Police Department is there year-round, and is assisted by several members of the department during the summer, protecting residents of Prouts Neck from speeders and other miscreants.

Under a 1993 arrangement with the town, the Prouts Neck Association (PNA) pays all of the costs associated with the officers, including their salaries, uniforms and equipment, as well as patrol car maintenance and insurance expenses.

The money is either paid directly by PNA to the provider of the services, or, under certain circumstances, PNA reimburses the town.

It is a long-standing arrangement going back as many as 40 years.

“As far as I know, the association has always paid for it,” said Lee Sprague, president of the Prouts Neck Association.

Barker himself has been the neck’s officer for 14 of his 34 years as a policeman.

“They want somebody in their neighborhood all the time,” Barker said.

During the summer, the association pays for some additional help, and five officers and reserve officers help out, some doing as little as one shift a week.

The work is, Barker said, “the same thing you do anywhere else in town.” But most of the work is speed monitoring. Putting a police car on the road in Prouts Neck can help, even when the radar unit is off.

“We have a very strict speed limit law,” Sprague said. The association suggests that residents use bicycles to get around the neck, and many residents do, especially children.

“They have a wonderful degree of freedom up here that you don’t have in a lot of other communities,” Sprague said.

That freedom comes at a cost, one the association is willing to pay.

“Some people don’t understand that Prouts Neck is footing the bill for this,” said Police Chief Robert Moulton.

The exact cost to the Prouts Neck Association is unclear. Sprague said the total cost of the police presence and its cruiser are all included in a larger budget line item for maintenance.

Barker’s salary is negotiated between the association and Barker, and is paid by the association. A first-year sergeant in the Scarborough Police Department earns $701 per week.

Barker has 25 years of service in the Scarborough Police Department as a regular officer, and would be eligible to make much more than that if he were still full time with the department.

While a new police car can cost $22,000 and $4,000 per year to maintain, Moulton said, the association piggybacks onto the police department’s periodic trade-in arrangements. The association picks the department’s best trade-in car, and gives the department Barker’s old car. The difference in value is made up in cash, Moulton said.

As for maintenance, the Prouts Neck patrol car is believed to have less wear-and-tear because it travels at lower speeds and covers shorter distances than the regular police patrol vehicles.

Moulton said there are certain items only police departments are allowed to buy, such as certain vehicle lights or uniforms. The department buys those for Barker and is reimbursed by the association. Most items, he said, are purchased directly by the association.

The Town of Scarborough does pay for departmental and state-required training for Barker, but those are services provided to all reserve officers, Moulton said.

Because he is paid by PNA, Barker is not usually considered available to respond to events outside Prouts Neck, Moulton said, but added that if his services were needed at a particularly serious incident, Barker would be called upon.

“He basically does what any other patrol officer would do in any other part of town,” Moulton said.

“What it really is is community policing,” Moulton said. “They wanted more extensive patrol coverage than the police department could provide.”

“A lot of the roads we have in Prouts Neck are private,” Sprague said. “We like to know that our roads are protected.”