MADISON — Madison Police Chief Barry Moores is on leave through the end of the month as the Madison Police Department begins its transition to becoming a division of the county sheriff’s office, according to the interim town manager.

Town officials originally said that the planned changes at the department would involve Moores staying on through December to oversee the consolidation with the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office.

Interim Town Manager Tim Curtis said Wednesday that it made more sense for Moores to be on leave through the transition, which voters approved earlier this month at Town Meeting.

Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster is overseeing day-to-day operations at the department.

“Instead of having two chiefs, if you will, two people in the same position at the same time, after talking with both Chief Moores and Sheriff Lancaster, we decided it would be best if we did it this way,” Curtis said.

The decision to put Moores on leave was made Friday.

“Essentially, his job will no longer be there on July 1, so it was my decision basically to start the transition now rather than wait until July 1,” Curtis said. “Barry and I agreed that his last day would be last Friday.”

Moores couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

Earlier this month, residents voted to approve a consolidation of the Police Department with the sheriff’s office. The plan was presented by Curtis and the Board of Selectmen as a cost-saving measure that would provide tax relief in the wake of Madison Paper Industries’ devaluation. The savings come largely through the elimination of the police chief’s position and health insurance savings that the county could provide for officers.

It was approved at Town Meeting through the adoption of a $481,000 police budget.

The plan originally was scheduled to go into effect July 1 after Lancaster met with town officials and Police Department employees to work out the consolidation details.

Residents at Town Meeting also asked questions about what role Moores would play through the transition and when he was planning to retire. He declined to comment, other than to say that he would “stay long enough either way to get through.”

Madison Board of Selectman Chairman Al Veneziano said Wednesday he agreed that it made more sense to begin giving day-to-day responsibilities to Lancaster.

“At this point, it provided for a cleaner break,” Veneziano said. “The people have voted on it, and we need to move forward so that on July 1 (the changes) can be enforced. We only have a couple of weeks to make it happen.”

Madison officials also are working with the county to create a memorandum of understanding outlining the details of the consolidation, and it is being reviewed by the county administrator, Curtis said.

“We hope to be able to have something in writing probably by early next week,” he said.

Officers at the Madison Police Department are reporting to Lancaster, and he has visited the department a few times already, Curtis said.

“He was not terminated or let go,” Curtis said of Moores. “We just agreed he would still be the chief through the end of the month, but his last working day was last Friday.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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