DIXFIELD – About 40 residents narrowly turned down a request by the Finance Committee to raise $10,268 so members of the Dixfield Police Department could receive raises equivalent to employees in other municipal departments at a special town meeting Monday night.
By a secret ballot vote of 23-17, residents turned down the Finance Committee’s request, then agreed to go with the selectmen’s recommendation of raising no money.
Voters also refused to approve raising $2,500 that would have been used to pay insurances and benefits associated with the proposed pay hike.
These actions, however, don’t mean police officers won’t get a 3.5 percent raise, the same as the rest of the municipal employees.
It means the $10,268, and perhaps the $2,500, will have to come from the Police Department’s approved budget.
“I’ll give the best service for the money,” Chief Richard Pickett said after the town meeting. “Some services other than routine patrol may not be provided.”
Funds for the raises were not included in the Police Department’s budget that was approved at the annual town meeting in June. That fact may have been an oversight because of the changes in town managers during the previous few months, Town Manager Tom Richmond said.
Former Town Manager Jeff Jacobson left in January, then Mexico Town Manager John Madigan took over half-time for a few months before Richmond came on board in May.
And Pickett said he did not know the money for raises was not in his budget until after the June town meeting. He said his original budget included money for the raises and benefits.
“I spoke with (Selectman) Brad Dyer that night and with the town manager the next day,” Pickett said.
Bettina Martin, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, said selectmen recommended against the $10,268 article because the board went with the previous town manager’s figures.
“The board feels any figures should be absorbed by the Police Department budget,” she said.
Richmond said after the meeting that the $2,500 for insurance and benefits may be found in a municipal account designated for such a purpose for all municipal employees at the end of the fiscal year. A worst case scenario, he said, could be the need for another special town meeting.
“The raises have been voted in (by the board),” he said.
In the meantime, he and Pickett will sit down to work on the Police Department budget to look for funds to cover the raises and benefits.
A third article, to sell a tiny parcel of town land to the Maine Department of Transportation, was easily approved by residents.
The land is off Route 2 and known as the old town dump. It is needed by the MDOT during next year’s major highway construction project. The land will be sold for $750.