MEXICO — The Mexico Police Department
will soon be back to its full five-officer force thanks to a $180,085
federal grant.

“It’s awesome,” said Chief Jim
Theriault. “I am so relieved.”

The grant will pay for salaries and
benefits for three years. The Mexico Police Department is one of 18
Maine police departments to receive funding to hire police officers.

The five-officer department was reduced
to four during the town’s last budget development session in an effort to
save money.

“We need at least five officers to do
the job adequately,” Theriault said, adding that police calls have
risen sharply during the past year. The new officer position will
allow more time to investigate crimes.

Town Manager John Madigan, who helped
Theriault write the grant, said he expects the position to be filled
by Sept. 1.

Theriault said he and Sgt. Roy Hodsdon
will interview the department’s five reserve officers, then choose
one for the full-time position.

Theriault applied for two officers
under the grant. Only larger towns and cities — such as Portland,
Lewiston, Auburn and Bangor — received funding for more than one
officer.

The police departments of Mexico and
Dixfield began discussing the possibility of merging the two
departments last year, then suspended talks until August.

Madigan said the receipt of the grant,
which will bring the combined number of officers up to nine, may
enhance the discussions.

He said a minimum of nine officers are
needed to provide two patrol officers to cover both
towns each shift.

Applications from law enforcement
agencies from around the country for grants totalled $8.3 billion, Madigan
said. Only $1.3 billion was provided.

The funds come from the U.S. Department
of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services through the
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

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