Sheriff to bring proposal for police coverage to Bethel

BETHEL — Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant will meet with selectmen and the Budget Committee on Nov. 23 to share a formal proposal for police coverage for the town.

Selectmen are trying to determine whether it is in the town's best interest to continue operating a police department, or to disband it and contract with the county, Town Manager James Doar said.

"There was a lot of discussion over whether or not, but ultimately, it boiled down to the selectmen wanting to at least hear something formal from the sheriff," Doar said Tuesday.

"There is a cost savings there, and I think they're just going to have to weigh out what the exact services would be, and if the cost savings is worth it," he said.

The matter came up because Doar suspended police Chief Alan Carr on Sept. 25 without publicly stating why. Carr resigned on Oct. 20 for personal reasons, leaving Doar and Sgt. S. R. White to run the Police Department as they had done since Sept. 25.

Prior to Monday night's meeting, Doar gave selectmen a memo containing a draft proposal that Doar said he and Gallant worked out informally. According to Doar's figures, Bethel spends about $313,000 a year to maintain single-officer, 24-hour coverage seven days a week. Switching to county coverage would cost the town $295,000 a year, a savings of $18,000,. according to the proposal.

"I went down to talk to (Gallant) and said, 'Is it even possible? This is what we expect,'" Doar said.

The draft proposal states that the county would provide three deputies — all graduates of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy — to give Bethel police protection 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

That protection includes:

• Patrolling the town.

• Responding to residents' calls for aid and to complaints.

• Enforcing state statutes and local ordinances, and rendering assistance in emergencies.

• Exercising statutory and common-law powers and duties of a sheriff to benefit Bethel.

Additional services would include:

• Providing monthly written reports of activities.

• Sending a representative to selectmen meetings and periodic meetings with Doar, as requested.

• Reports of all complaints received against deputies and the county's response to such complaints.

• Delivering meeting packets as prepared by Doar to individual selectmen.

County coverage services would be provided for one year, with a renewal option of three to five years.

The proposal further states that deputies assigned to Bethel can leave town limits to respond to emergencies in area towns, but must return to Bethel as soon as possible. Prior to permanently assigning or reassigning any deputy from the town, the county would have to consult with Bethel.

The county would provide all equipment being used by deputies covering Bethel, and Bethel, in turn, would sell to the county its police cruisers for $1.

Cruisers covering Bethel would be marked "Oxford County Sheriff's Office — Bethel Patrol."

"This is kind of a hybrid of what I'd want to see, and what the sheriff would want to see," Doar said. "Like selling the cruisers to the sheriff for a dollar is something that he wanted to see, so we threw it out there."

The matter, once decided by selectmen, must go to a town meeting vote.

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