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March 26. 2014 10:05PM

After court decision on mutual aid, Stewartstown wary of Colebrook

STEWARTSTOWN — While selectmen are pleased with a recent court decision that found the town did not have to pay neighboring Colebrook for responding to mutual-aid police calls, they're warily watching their Colebrook counterparts' next move.

On Wednesday, Colebrook Town Manger Becky Merrow said her town's selectmen met earlier this week to discuss next steps following a March 10 ruling by Judge Peter Cyr in First Circuit Court in Lancaster that Stewartstown — the defendant in a small-claims lawsuit brought by Colebrook — does not owe $733.14 plus $80 in court costs.

She said she could not discuss the letter until it was sent to Stewartstown next week, nor was she at liberty to talk about whether Colebrook has changed the way it responds to police calls from Stewartstown.

Colebrook's lawsuit alleged that Stewartstown, which does not have its own police force, was past due on paying Colebrook for three incidents between March and July 2013 when Colebrook officers went to Stewartstown to back up New Hampshire State Police.

In court, Stewartstown selectmen said their town has always paid Colebrook when it requested an exclusive, "first-responder" response but had never paid Colebrook for providing mutual-aid to a state trooper that Stewartstown had hired on a detail basis.

The Stewartstown selectmen in court, and also in a conference call with the Union Leader on March 17, said Stewartstown has never billed Colebrook when the state trooper on detail was called to provide "mutual aid" to a Colebrook officer in that community, something that happened six times in the past two years.

The lack of a formalized agreement, the selectmen noted, did not mean that there was no longstanding understanding on the matter of police response between Stewartstown and Colebrook.

"This court finds on the evidence before it that such an informal agreement between the various towns and agencies existed," Cyr wrote. "This court finds that the billing for backup services violated the agreement although the town of Stewartstown has continued to honor it."

Colebrook has 30 days from the date of Cyr's decision to file an appeal but according to Lancaster District Court officials on Wednesday, no appeal had been filed yet.

jkoziol@newstote.com



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