MEXICO — The Rumford and Mexico Boards of Selectmen unanimously agreed Wednesday evening to schedule a joint meeting in November with the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department and the police chiefs of both towns to compare and analyze ways to reduce spending.
The two board discussed recommendations from consultants Municipal Resources Inc. of New Hampshire provided at a Sept. 23 meeting.
In September 2013, Municipal Resources provided Rumford and Mexico with a proposal for a comprehensive study on consolidating services. The boards approved the proposal and have been meeting with the consulting group for nearly a year to discuss ways for the towns to consolidate.
Rumford Selectman Jeff Sterling asked if the recommendations provided last month was the final list.
“The sense I got after hearing (Municipal Resources President) Don Jutton talk last month is that this is it,” Sterling said. “I think the first thing we need to do is agree or not agree if we’re going to accept the recommendations that they gave us. If so, we can move on, talk about the different layers we need to work through and set up something to put before the voters.”
Town Manager John Madigan said Jutton had plans to return with a final list of suggestions, but the consultants “were close to being done.”
Mexico Selectman Albert Aniel said he believed the first thing Mexico and Rumford should look at, in terms of sharing or consolidating services, is the police departments.
“I only see two possible solutions when looking at our police departments,” Aniel said. “We could either wait and see what the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office says about covering both of our towns, or the Rumford Police Department could disband and Mexico hires eight officers from Rumford, which would give us a 12-man police force between each town.”
Aniel said, “I think the only way consolidating our police works is if Rumford Police combines with Mexico Police with Mexico’s level of salary and benefits.”
Rumford Selectman Mark Belanger said he believed each board should ask the police chiefs of Rumford and Mexico to meet and try to create a proposal for consolidating police departments.
“After they create a proposal and figure out how much it would cost to do something like that, we would compare it side-by-side with the proposal from the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office,” Belanger said. “This way, we can see what our best bet would be and put something before the people.”
At one point during the meeting, Rumford Chairman Greg Buccina held up the list of recommendations from Municipal Resources and said, “I’m about ready to throw this out and stop payment.”
“It’s just getting ridiculous,” Buccina said. “We’re overcomplicating everything here. Our department heads should start identifying ways that are going to instruct the integration of their departments.”
As an example, Buccina said that during the winter, Rumford could use its equipment to plow the streets of Mexico.
“There’s nothing out there that says we cannot use equipment in Rumford to help better service the town of Mexico by plowing their streets,” Buccina said. “It’s just an idea, but we don’t need an act of Congress to do that. It’s just a matter of trying it for a winter and seeing how it goes.”
“We have a shared town manager right now,” Buccina said. “My goodness gracious, is anyone complaining? Has our level of service changed at all? Not a whole lot. That’s mainly due to the character of the person involved, but on the other side of the coin, we said we were going to try it, and we have. And it saved us money. And it’s been more efficient.”
Buccina suggested that everyone “relax, take a breath, and take small bites” out of the list of recommendations, starting with the Police Department.
“It’s better to succeed at something small, rather than trying to change everything at once and upset the apple cart,” he said.
Chairman Richie Philbrick suggested Madigan contact Sheriff Wayne Gallant and see when he would be free to meet in Mexico with both boards and both police chiefs.