Selectmen said they saw the financial impact on Duxbury as minimal.

“For all practical purposes it’s relatively budget neutral,” said Andre Martecchini. “Part of the purpose of the proposal is to save money ... in our case, because of the nature of our road system it’s not going to save us a lot of money.”

Governor Patrick has been working to allow civilian flaggers to direct traffic at roadside work sites, rather than police details. Massachusetts was the only state in the country where all work sites had to have a police officer until the rules were changed. However many cities and towns, including Duxbury, have inserted language into the police union’s collective bargaining agreement giving local police the authority to require a police presence at work sites.

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Jon Witten said he chose to follow the recommendation of Town Manager Richard MacDonald in approving the contract language. MacDonald told the board that he had been approached by members of the police unions, and that the town had received some concessions from police.

“We don’t have many details on town roads and we aren’t dealing with the volume that a large municipality would,” said Witten.

Martecchini echoed Witten’s sentiment.

“If we were looking at it and saying we’re going to be able to save $100,000 or whatever in the costs, I’d say let’s think this differently,” he said. “In the town of Duxbury, we looked at it and said ... is it worth the aggravation and upsetting the status quo for basically no gain?  Do we want to argue with the police for no apparent gain to the town and frankly a loss of income to the police?”

Selectman Elizabeth Sullivan was the only board member to voice a concern when the vote was taken. She said she was uncomfortable making such a change to the union contracts without sitting down at the bargaining table, but still voted to approve the measure.

“As someone that negotiates contracts for the town, it was a very difficult call to make that kind of a concession outside of a negotiating situation,” she said.

However, she agreed with the public safety rationale expressed by other board members.

“Do I really want some flagman out there ... they’re perhaps not as professionally trained, and accidents happen,” she said, pointing out a Duxbury police officer was recently killed while working a traffic detail at the Marshfield Fair.

“I’d think I’d rather have a cop out there,” she said. “Someone who knows what to do in an emergency.”

Sullivan said she sees the flagger controversy as more of a state issue, and didn’t think the selectmen’s vote undercut the reform efforts of Governor Deval Patrick.

“If I was going to start pushing back against what the governor is trying to do, I don’t know that this is where I’d start,” she said.

Duxbury Police Chief Mark DeLuca did not return a phone call seeking comment on this issue. State police union officials have challenged the notion that using civilian flaggers could save the state as much as $6 million annually.

“Despite the opinions of David Tureck and the deeply flawed studies of the Beacon Hill Institute, there is no real evidence that replacing police with flaggers will save anyone money,” wrote Massachusetts Coalition of Police AFL-CIO President Hugh Cameron in a letter posted on the union’s Web site.

“Flaggers would be hired by the construction companies themselves, unionized companies who would pay benefits and turn those costs over to whoever is paying the bill. Even if the prevailing wage for flaggers did go down, health insurance and other benefits would keep the cost high.”

Tureck, the executive director of the Beacon Hill Institute, disagreed.

“If they could save a nickel by buying less expensive stationary, would they still pay for the more expensive stationary?” he said.

“Why not go ahead and spend the money doesn’t seem to be a responsible policy from elected officials,” he added.

Clipper readers had strong reactions on the subject.

“Civilian flaggers have worked in 49 states and should work here,” said George Wadsworth of Elm Street. “The police chief should not be put into a position of determining where there are civilian flaggers because some of those policemen may have excessive overtime duties resulting in less than effective performance during their regular duty time.”

“Aren’t we putting the fox in charge of the hen house by allowing the Duxbury chief of police to decide whether or not to put a police detail on a site?” said Marta Hartwell of Parks Avenue. “Duxbury is hardly a high speed traffic area and many times having a civilian traffic director will make better sense than taking a highly paid police officer from other duties when all that is needed is someone to direct traffic around a construction site.”

Robert Dente of Enterprise Drive said the decision whether or not to use police details should not be left up to the police chief.

“I am a civilian and could handle being a flagger with ease,” he said. “The question is not how much money you would save, it is: will it save money?  The answer is yes, so do it.”

“I think police details are, in general, an unnecessary use of taxpayer’s and citizens’ money,” added Linda Garrity of West Street. “I would rather spend the dollars having them police the streets in our cities and tougher neighborhoods or work on solving crimes.”

Others decried the tactics by police unions since the new rules took effect.

“The attempt by many police unions to hold onto the lucrative paid details by using fear tactics is obvious, and does nothing to garner goodwill from the public,” said Selden Tearse of Bay Road.  “The recent activity in Boston by union officials which shut down two MWRA work sites was deplorable. My hope is that Governor Patrick, regardless of what the town cedes, will create a law that overrules such bargaining agreements.”

A few readers agreed with the selectmen in saying the police should be in charge of matters of public safety.

“There have been incidents on numerous occasions that officers on detail foil other crimes or assist in providing emergency medical care,” said Jim O’Sullivan of Amado Way. “Let’s not be foolish on this issue. The Duxbury Police should handle all details. Let’s not save a dime now and spend a dollar on public safety later.”

Martecchini said that someone always pays, whether it’s the town in the case of police officers or the rate payers in the case of civilian flaggers.

Tureck, however, had a blunter assessment.

“They’re afraid to stand up to the unions,” he said. “The rest is public relations.”