NORWAY — Town officials say Norway may be getting shortchanged when it comes to assisting Oxford police officers answering calls at the Oxford Casino.
“We want to monitor this,” Town Manager David Holt said.
Police Chief Rob Federico said Tuesday that as of last Thursday, Oxford police had 25 calls for assistance at the Oxford Casino since it opened on June 1. Of those 25 calls, Oxford police requested assistance from communities such as Norway and Paris on seven occasions. And of those seven, Norway responded three times.
Oxford police have also called Norway police 13 other times since June 1 to back them up in situations not connected with the casino.
The mutual aid agreement between the police departments includes officers in Norway, Paris, Poland and Mechanic Falls. Generally, the sending towns are not reimbursed for their officers' time outside of their community.
“It's the fair way. We have to rely on each other,” Paris police Chief David Verrier said. Paris has responded to the casino on Route 26 on two occasions.
Both Federico and Holt support the mutual aid agreement as a way to protect the police officers and community at large, but they and other town officials say the additional use of Norway officers outside of town at the casino bears watching.
“We should keep close track so we don't get shortchanged,” Selectman Russ Newcomb said.
According to the statewide referendum passed by voters in 2010, 16 percent of net table game income and 46 percent of slot machine income goes to various entities, including 25 percent to the state Department of Education, 2 percent to the town of Oxford, and 1 percent to Oxford County.
While the town of Oxford financially gains from the casino revenues as does Oxford County, the other neighboring towns do not. Norway officials say the Oxford County Sheriff's Department has not sent one officer for mutual aid to the casino since it opened and yet the county receives financial gain from the casino, as does the town of Oxford.
“They (town of Oxford) could use some of the $28,000 a week and maybe some could go to additional (police coverage),” Holt said. The sum is 2 percent of slot machine and table games revenue netted in the first week of operation.
Oxford could see nearly $1.5 million annually, if the revenues remain as strong as the first week. Oxford's 2012 budget was $3.21 million.
“It's a little bit like rubbing salt in the wounds. If we have to leave our community without protection or compensation, it's going to be a problem,” Holt said. He suggested that Oxford police might try to call the nearer towns of Poland and Mechanic Falls for police assistance first.
Mechanic Falls Town Manager John Hawley said officials have noticed some impact on the level of traffic on their roads but it is too soon to know how the casino is impacting other services in town such as police protection.