RUMFORD — Selectmen approved hiring a utility police officer Thursday night following a short discussion with police Chief Stacy Carter.
The board voted 3-0 to hire Lawrence Briggs of Rumford for the position. Selectman Frank DiConzo abstained from voting and Selectman Mark Belanger was absent.
Carter said his budget approval allowed for the utility position to be used to reduce overtime costs associated with two officers who will be attending the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in January.
Briggs, who is just finishing the 100-hour course at the academy for his new certification, will fill one of the spots on the roster for the two officers “so that we don’t incur too much overtime,” he said.
Selectman Brad Adley motioned to hire Briggs. After it was seconded, Adley asked Carter if selectmen had increased his budget to accommodate a utility officer.
“Yes,” Carter said. “The budget was also increased to facilitate for the return of the detective’s position, which was lost last year. Currently, we’re having trouble attracting qualified candidates, so we’re still looking for somebody so we can move an officer into the detective slot.”
“Without this utility officer, we’re going to incur a lot of overtime, so this would actually save us money if we want to keep the same level of service,” Adley said. “Is this correct?”
Cartersaid it would.
Selectmen Chairman Greg Buccina asked how long the academy training would be for the two officers. Carter stated it would be 18 weeks.
The chief said the initial plan was to send one officer in August and the other in January, but the academy had more than 100 officers on its August list and they only take the first 50.
“Is this utility officer going to be dismissed after the officers get back?” Buccina asked.
“No, this appointment is until June 30 as the utility officer for the budget year,” Carter said. “The academy goes until mid-June, so his last couple of weeks, he’s going to cover vacations, and then this will be a new budget year and whatever the new budget brings,” he said.
“My recommendation would be to keep a utility officer to cover vacations and other overtime so that we keep the overtime costs down,” Carter said. “That has worked well for us in the past and keeps an officer trained for any unexpected vacancies or departures.”
Additionally, if an officer leaves, that utility officer is already trained and ready to fill the spot rather than paying overtime costs while trying to attract someone to fill the position, Carter said.
“The utility position is generally not a budget line item, because he is saving overtime,” he said.
The board then OK’d hiring Briggs.
In other police news, Carter gave each selectmen a pamphlet from the Every 15 Minutes program that the department ran in 2013 and plans to again next year.
He said it’s a communitywide endeavor that deals with underage drinking and drives home the importance of teens making good decisions. It strives to show students the possible lethal results of texting while driving or using drugs or alcohol.
Last month, the RSU 10 board unanimously approved the event for April or May.
In the program, students, staff and community members, including parents, clergy, business owners, funeral directors, doctors and others, create a scene where unwise decisions resulted in a student “death.”
Every 15 Minutes refers to when a death occurs because of poor decisions. It is a national program.
“It went over very well in 2013 and we’re doing it again in 2015 at the end of the school year,” Carter said. “It’s a very good program.”