RUMFORD – Police Chief Stacy Carter said the Finance Committee’s recommendation to eliminate two positions from his department would reduce response speed and time spent on investigations when the town is experiencing an increase in violent crimes.

“Our call volume is up 11 percent this past year,” he told selectmen at a public hearing on the town’s budget Thursday night. Selectmen propose a $7.3 million municipal budget while the Finance Committee recommends $7.14 million.

However, Finance Committee member Ron Theriault said the department’s call numbers have declined. He cited numbers he said came from a Federal Bureau of Investigation Web site.

“The town manager spoke of attrition. The Finance Committee suggested not filling the two positions,” he said. “There are manpower issues that can be aligned.”

Selectmen recommend by a 3-1 vote raising $913,600 for the police department while the Finance Committee recommends $824,000, by a vote of 5-3. The selectmen’s recommendation would retain a 14-person police force.

Acting fire Chief Richard Coulombe also took issue with an assertion by Theriault regarding a Finance Committee recommendation.

Coulombe said cutting his department’s proposed budget to $708,000, as recommended by the committee, would cut the department to nine people, likely leaving only two firefighters on duty during some shifts.

Theriault believes the two positions would not be lost if the fire department did not respond to medical calls.

Coulombe said later that night that about $8,000 is used for the medical calls.

The committee voted 6-3 to approve the lower number while selectmen approved sending an $800,000 fire department budget to voters by a 3-1 vote.

Carter, who said statistics for New England recommend 16 officers for a town Rumford’s size, also said that a majority of voters in a straw poll last year wanted to retain current services in both departments.

The two departments received the most comment as selectmen took turns reading each of the town meeting warrant’s 56 articles.

The budget items, as well as several proposed ordinance changes and charter amendments, will be voted on in referendum on June 10. Voters will have a choice of approving selectmen or Finance Committee budget recommendations.

At the town meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. on June 2, voters will approve or reject a new 10-year interlocal agreement with Med-Care Ambulance Service. No one commented on that proposal Thursday night.

Some did comment, however, on a proposed change to the charter that would allow the town manager to live in an area town rather than restricting him or her to living in Rumford.

“The Charter Commission was wrong in recommending this. This is not the River Valley, this is Rumford,” said Joe Gorham.

Kevin Saisi also objected to a proposal to eliminate the Finance Committee.

“If there is no Finance Committee, then five people (selectmen) would provide only one option. The Finance Committee is worth the investment,” he said.

 


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