Norway-Paris police merger on the back burner


PARIS — A proposed merger between the Norway and Paris police departments is looking less and less likely.

In April, Norway police Chief Robert Federico and then-Paris police Chief David Verrier proposed a merger they said would greatly improve police services while saving money. It would have been the first of its kind in Maine, although Verrier and Federico pointed to successful mergers in other states.

Norway voters approved a one-year trial department consolidation, which would have made Federico head of the combined police force. It didn’t go over as well in Paris, where selectmen voted to pull the merger from the town meeting warrant to discuss it further and change the terms. In August, a Paris vote on the merger at a special town meeting ended in a 41-41 tie.

The trial consolidation would have joined the departments for a year, while a committee would be formed to look for any potential problems and fix them in a more permanent solution. Residents of both towns would have had a chance to vote on a permanent merger.

After the vote, both chiefs said they had no plans to look for a second vote. Paris selectmen discussed putting a merger vote on the November ballot, but decided not to. Since then, big changes in Paris have kept the issue on the back burner.

Former Town Manager Phil Tarr was replaced by Amy Bernard.

Verrier resigned to take a position at the Maine Correctional Center and Paris Lt. Michael Dailey announced his resignation to take a job with the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office, although Dailey elected to stay on as interim Paris police chief when he learned of Verrier’s plans.

Sam Elliot, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said the board has been too busy to discuss the issue recently. “If we do it at all, it’s going to be at town meeting in the summertime,” Elliot said. “We’re not pursuing it at this time,” he said.

He said the issue needs to be discussed soon, but at this point “it hasn’t come up yet.”

Dailey said he and Federico haven’t discussed the merger, but said the departments will continue to cooperate. “I think there’s some things that we can accomplish, working together, without necessarily needing to merge,” he said last week.

Dailey had supported the merger and was disappointed when Paris rejected the measure.

“I think the priority is to try to get us up to staff first,” he said. The department has three new hires who need academy training, and Dailey said that’s the focus now. Any future discussion of the merger, he said, is up to the residents of Paris.

Norway Town Manager David Holt said there’s little, if any, hope in Norway of pressing for a merger again.

“I don’t see Norway proposing anything in the foreseeable future,” Holt said in an email Friday.  “I think the idea had some merit and don’t regret trying to recommend it, but it was tiring and the forces that made it not work out still exist.”

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