Students question donation to local police

Wolk defends giving money to police and fire departments  because the university doesn’t pay property taxes:

Students in Professor Dave Blow’s Newsgathering and Writing class gasped at the possibility of Castleton University helping pay for a new police cruiser in town.  

Police Chief Peter Mantello brought the idea to light at an Oct. 26 town Select Board Meeting that the class was watching on PEGTV to prepare to cover a subsequent meeting. Mantello, said the University wanted to “reward” the police department for good work.

Senior Mike Toczko really dislikes that idea of college funds being used to help fund local police.

 “I don’t think they should get a reward because they are doing what they are paid to do,” he said.

Others asked about the issue seemed to agree.

“I think it makes sense for the college to have a good relationship with the police department and making a donation is a good way to maintain that, but a police SUV is big for a school that could use that money elsewhere,” said Alden Bisson, a member of Blow’s class.

“The fact that the money would go to them without the students being aware of where exactly their money is going is ridiculous and shady and makes me question where else my money is going,” said Olivia Maher, another member of the class.

Some students took the interview opportunity to talk about where they think the money might be better spent.

 “The school should use that money to upgrade our campus; some of our facilities need it,” said junior Justin Goulet.

But Castleton University President Dave Wolk, in an email response, seemed surprised to learn about Mantello’s comments about a car.

“Neither Scott Dikeman nor I have heard about helping out with a cruiser purchase,” Wolk wrote.

Mantello did not return calls to The Spartan before press time.

Scott Dikeman, Castleton’s dean of administration, said that when university officials met with Mantello in September, “It was left that the chief would provide us with a wish list and the costs associated with those items. To date, we have not yet received the list nor made a determination as to our support. It is safe to say that we will be assisting them at some level.”

And in his email, Wolk said he believes that’s appropriate.

“Since the University does not pay taxes, in the past we have helped out the volunteer fire department and the police department as well as emergency response folks with some equipment purchases,” said Wolk.

At the most recent Select Board meeting Nov. 9, Board Chairman Joe Bruno was asked by a student reporter whether the car purchase was proceeding. He said it was still being discussed.

Castleton Town Manager Mark Shea in a follow-up interview on Nov. 11, said the police thought they had more funds than they really do, so the car purchase is still on hold as police and the board are looking into funding options.


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