DIXFIELD — The Board of Selectmen met with the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department on Monday evening to discuss a proposal for law enforcement coverage.
Selectman Dana Whittemore said that he had “asked for this during one of our meetings.”
“I just want people to know that this isn’t performance-based,” Whittemore said. “It’s information-based. We’re not unhappy with what we have in terms of performance. We just need to have options.”
Sheriff Wayne Gallant said that he drafted two proposals for Dixfield: a 24-hour coverage proposal and an 18-hour coverage proposal.
“I do want to say that the 18-hour coverage means there will be 18 hours of patrol, but there’s still going to be 24-hours of police coverage,” Gallant said. “That means if one of the deputies goes home, and something happens in the night, one of the deputies in the area will be called out.”
Gallant added that for the 24-hour coverage proposal, the startup costs for the first year would be $429,181 before dropping to $364,631 in the second year, while the 18-hour coverage proposal would have a startup cost of $315,236 before dropping to $283,686.
“The wages and benefits for the officers is all-inclusive,” Gallant said. “All personnel and negotiation issues falls to the county, along with insurance, liabilities and workman’s compensation.”
A majority of the startup costs in the first year would be centered around a changeover in uniforms, Gallant said.
“It’ll be $5,000 per person in the first year, in terms of clothing,” Gallant said. “After that, the clothing costs drops down to $800 per person. As for cruisers, we take over any cruisers within the town we contract with, but if the contract is ever abolished, the county would replace the vehicle for the same amount.”
Whittemore asked Gallant if there would be more deputies in the area.
“Yeah, you would probably see more,” Gallant said. “Another thing worth noting is that all existing employees with the Dixfield Police Department would have the opportunity to employ with us. They’d go through our hiring process, but they’re full-time police officers in the state of Maine, so they should be able to meet our hiring standards. If they don’t apply, they don’t get hired.”
Chairman Scott Belskis asked where the Sheriff’s Department would operate if they contracted with Dixfield.
“I think if we were to start a contract, we’d try our best to work on a place to rent or own,” Gallant said. “Bethel is too far for an office, and I think Rumford would even be a little too far.”
One resident asked the selectmen what the town is paying to fund the Dixfield Police Department for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
Belskis said the police budget for the current fiscal year was $342,598.
Police Chief Richard Pickett said that he wanted residents to know that “any money we don’t spend in a given year gets turned back to the general fund.”
“We don’t spend money unless we need to spend money,” Pickett said. “We budgeted $342,598, but as any department does, we inflate it a bit to be sure we have enough to do our job. If we have any money at the end of the year, we put it back into the general fund. I just want people to know that you’re getting a pretty good bargain for what you have: a chief and four officers.”
Belskis asked Gallant if the cost would increase if neighboring towns decided to sign a contract.
“No, even if the two neighboring towns signed a contract, the cost would stay the same,” Gallant replied.
Selectman Mac Gill said that he believes an issue like this should go before the voters, and that the board should “not be making a decision like this without input from the people.”