DIXFIELD – Selectmen from Mexico and Dixfield agreed Tuesday night to table action on merging or sharing services of their police departments.

“Once the town meetings are over and Mexico has decided how to provide its police services, we’ll know what size police force we’ll have,” said Dixfield Town Manager Eugene Skibitsky Wednesday afternoon. “Then we’ll construct a budget to reflect a merged department.”

The boards have been working for months to try to merge police departments.

“I’m sorry we ran out of time (before town meeting). It’s doable, but the devil’s in the details,” Skibitsky said.

Mexico Town Manager John Madigan said he believes enough details have been documented, but is willing to wait until August to resume joint meetings of the boards. He and Skibitsky will likely continue to meet and discuss sharing police services between now and late summer, he said.

“I believe there will be long-term benefits,” Madigan said.

Mexico’s budget shows $362,405 its five-person police force. Dixfield budgets $290,769 for a four-person force.

Madigan said savings could be found by having fewer cruisers and a change in shifts resulting in less overtime. A nine-person force is proposed to cover the two towns.

Madigan said some Mexico residents are asking for a four-person police department, something he doesn’t agree with. He said the number of incidents the police respond to has increased every year. Last year’s incident count came in at 1,947, up from 1,373 in 2005. In Dixfield, comparable numbers are 1,241 for 2008 and 808 in 2005, although Madigan isn’t sure whether the lower number is accurate because 2005 was the first year Dixfield police began using a new software program.

If the towns combine forces, Madigan expects at least $30,000 in savings.

Voters would likely have a say in whether the departments merge.

Madigan is also looking into federal funds for an officer. A grant would pay salary and benefits for three years.

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