From left to right, East Lyme Constable Michael Finkelstein, East Lyme First Constable Kevin Seery, Watford First Constable Rob Brule and Watford Constable Marc Balestracci pose for a photo at Watford Town Hall. (Photo courtesy of Waterford Town)
The towns of Waterford and East Lyme have agreed to share resources and costs in the investigation into a serious crash that included a death.
Each town has its own accident reconstruction team, but the partnership has now created what it calls the Shoreline Traffic Incident Recovery Team (START).
Watford Police Chief Marc Balestracci explained that it takes a lot of time and expertise to be a reconstructionist, who decides on factors such as speed and the cause of an accident, and writes a an official report.
Through an agreement that went into effect last week and will not expire, the two teams can now work together on the accident investigation. This partnership allows towns to share equipment and labor costs as needed.
“[The agreement] Allows us to share resources and not only provide the highest quality products and reports, but some of the equipment is really expensive,” Balestracci said.
Balestracci said Waterford’s team is called up only a few times a year. Justifying the purchase of expensive equipment for two or three events would be a “pretty heavy burden” for any town, he said, calling the partnership a huge burden for taxpayers and officials involved. It is a “win-win”.
Balestracci cited the Nov. 8 accident on Route 85 as an example of when the agreement would go into effect. The frontal collision sent both drivers to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital with serious injuries and closed the road for several hours.
“Any serious or fatal motor vehicle accident is where these teams want to work together and use that in this protocol,” Balestracci said.
Balestracci and East Lyme Police Chief Michael Finkelstein recalled that the two towns discussed a similar agreement while Waterford’s former police chief, Brett Mahoney, was still in command. Finkelstein said he and Mahoney saw Ledyard, Stonington and Groton working together and thought Waterford and East Lyme should consider doing the same.
Finkelstein said he was “delighted” that the deal had been revived.
“The partnership combining this extremely technical resource will allow both agencies to provide the highest quality and efficient service possible to residents and visitors of both communities,” Finkelstein said.
Waterford First Selectman Rob Brule said: “The Shoreline Traffic Accident Reconstruction Team will be another example of Waterford working with our great neighbour, East Lyme.” The two towns currently collaborate on animal control services, share a district police ship and Average funding to build a new pumping boat on the Niantic River.
At the end of September, Watford agreed to cooperate with Ledyard to form a special response team to deal with major crimes such as hostage-taking.
Like that agreement, the Accident Reconstruction Agreement is “open ended,” meaning it has no expiration date and other towns can join. Balestracci said the terms would be reviewed as needed to ensure the agreement “works as intended,” but he didn’t expect any issues to arise.
“I’m sure everything will work out,” Balestracci said.