Mexico selectmen to consider extending COPS grant at January meeting

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MEXICO — The Board of Selectmen agreed Tuesday evening to vote at its next meeting on whether to extend the COPS grant the town received in 2013.

The Mexico Police Department originally received the $156,071 grant in September 2013, police Chief Roy Hodsdon said.

The grant, awarded through the COPS Hiring Program, is designed to help bolster the hiring of local law enforcement agencies.

Hodsdon said he received a letter from the COPS Hiring Program.

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“The basic idea of the letter is that if we decide to extend the grant, it wouldn’t be affected if Mexico and Rumford were to merge police departments,” Hodsdon said. “The only way the grant would be affected is if we decided to go with the Sheriff’s Office.”

Hodsdon added that the “only way the program would balk is if our budget went higher than what it was now, and we proved we could afford more officers.”

If that were to happen, the grant would disappear, Hodsdon said. “I told them that the purpose of the two towns merging was to lower the budget. In the letter I received from the COPS program, they said the grant could be reworded to apply to whatever we decide to do in terms of our Police Department.”

The new grant would cover $52,024 of an officer’s wages and benefits for three years, Hodsdon said.

The cost of an officer, with wages and benefits, is $69,365, Hodsdon said, meaning the town would be on the hook for $17,341.

Hodsdon pointed out that the cost of him being a working chief, with holiday pay, vacation and personal time included, was more than $21,000.

“You’re seeing a savings of almost $4,000 if you accept the grant,” Hodsdon said.

Chairman Richie Philbrick told Hodsdon, “I’m glad you did your homework and came to us with some figures ready. I really appreciate the work and effort that you put into this.”

Selectman Byron Ouellette said he originally was not in favor of “doing another grant if it would cause a problem with any future merge with Rumford. However, it appears that the grant wouldn’t be affected by a merger. It’s looking like a pretty good deal.”

“It seems like a no-brainer,” Philbrick said.

Hodsdon agreed to check with the COPS Hiring Program to see whether the town would be responsible for fully funding a fourth year of the grant.

Philbrick said the selectmen would decide what to do with the grant at their first January meeting.

mdaigle@sunjournal.com

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