Paris voters turn down police funding increase

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PARIS — Voters at town meeting Saturday turned down a 1.5 percent increase in Police Department spending recommended by the Budget Committee.

The increase was to cover the potential rise in insurance and wage costs, Chief Hartley “Skip” Mowatt said, but it was not known for sure whether he would need it. Union contract negotiations are still underway.

Voters approved the Board of Selectmen recommendation of $637,152 for the Police Department. The selectmen’s proposed amount did not include the $3,000 Mowatt had asked for to improve his department’s evidence room.

Town Manager Victor Hodgkins made it a point to tell citizens that the Police Department is currently under budget by $35,000, which was met with applause.

The Parks and Recreation Department budget was set at $41,377, rather than the $63,072 recommended by the Budget Committee, but voters covered the difference by authorizing selectmen to expend $30,000 from four other funds when requests for programs and materials are presented to them.

The Fire Department, which has a volunteer roster of about 30, was given a budget of $261,172. Selectmen said the town has saved $140,000 by switching to the volunteer model, and they didn’t think the response time or effectiveness had suffered.

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Selectman Rusty Brackett said the department has a lot of “enthusiasm,” meaning a high number of volunteers showing up for every call. When it was explained by Fire Chief John Longley that volunteers get paid for a minimum of one hour when they show up for a call, and in quarter-hour intervals thereafter, a citizen asked if the volunteer’s “enthusiasm” was costing taxpayers more money.

“It’s saving you,” said Longley, who said that when more volunteers respond, the quicker an emergency situation is resolved, and less time equates to less money spent by taxpayers.

A total of $668,241 was approved for capital expenditures, including $500,000 for road construction, and a promise from Hodgkins to “rebuild Ellingwood Road from the ground up.”

The $570,854 in the town’s unassigned fund balance will be used largely to offset the fiscal year 2018-19 taxes, and for road construction.

The Budget Committee had recommended $190,788 for highway equipment, while the selectmen had allocated no money from the unassigned fund balance. Instead, they proposed that $175,000 from the town’s interest-bearing accounts go toward highway equipment, and $77,433 from those accounts go toward fire equipment. The proposal passed.

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Paris Town Manager Victor Hodgkins, middle, explains a warrant article to a citizen at the annual town meeting Saturday. Town Clerk Elizabeth Knox is to his right and Selectman Rusty Brackett to his left, at the Paris Fire Station. (Liz Marquis/Sun Journal)

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