MEXICO — Budget recommendations for the Police Department prompted a heated debate at Tuesday night’s selectmen’s meeting.

Voters will decide the amount when they cast ballots on the 17 articles of the town meeting warrant June 11.

According to the warrant, selectmen proposed the town raise and appropriate $901,530.24 for public safety, while the Budget Committee recommended $669,368.84.

For the Police Department, selectmen proposed $400,161, while the Budget Committee recommended $180,000.

Town Manager John Madigan explained that originally, selectmen proposed $400,000 for the Police Department to make sure it stayed the same as previous years.

“We have accepted $180,000 over the past three years through a grant that completely pays the expenses of a fifth police officer,” Madigan said. “I told the Budget Committee that when we accepted the grant, we had to commit to the police officer’s position for one additional year after the three years the grant gave us. That is for this upcoming budget year.”


Madigan added that the town had allocated money each year in the budget so that by the time the grant ran out, they would have enough money to ensure the obligated fourth year would not be a burden on the town, and that $50,000 from the town’s general fund would go toward paying for the officer.

“The Budget Committee, because of the $50,000, wanted to budget only $350,000, and I told them they couldn’t do that,” Madigan said. “Their next motion was to raise $0 for the Police Department, even after explaining to them that we had an obligation to pay for that officer after accepting the grant four years earlier.

“I told them, ‘If you raise $0, you better raise $180,000, because that’s what we’re going to have to pay back the federal government for not honoring our commitment to them” Madigan continued. “That’s what they decided to do, on a 4-3 vote. They want to not only eliminate the whole Police Department, but also give the federal government $180,000 that we had been collecting for the last three years to pay for one of our officers.”

Albert Aniel of the Budget Committee said, “We could recommend $1 million, we could recommend one penny and it wouldn’t matter. People always vote on what the selectmen propose.”

Aniel continued, “We voted the way we did because a lot of us on the Budget Committee feel that when you compare 15 years ago, when we had one or two police officers to now, when our population has dropped by half and 40 percent of the town is elderly. I don’t see a lot of rampant crime going on. We came up with the proposed budget number as sort of a protest against the selectmen, asking them and the townspeople to think, ‘Do you really need the police force that you have?’”

Resident Sheldon Merrill, who identified himself as a retired state and local police officer with 31 years of experience, told those in attendance, “You people better think really hard about abolishing the Police Department.”


“What’s going to happen is every criminal for 130 miles will come to Mexico,” he continued. “It’s easy pickings. Believe me, I’ve seen it happen. If you take the Police Department out of this town, you people are way out to lunch. I know what I’m talking about. Don’t let it happen.”

Aniel said the $669,368 proposal was meant as a protest against selectmen, not as a way to get rid of the Police Department.

“If the selectmen’s proposal doesn’t pass, the selectmen and the Budget Committee will get back together, haggle and figure out a way to solve this issue,” Aniel said.

The town meeting warrant will be voted on at the polls from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 11 at the Town Office.

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