RUMFORD — Passions flared Thursday night between selectmen and police Chief Stacy Carter over a request for a proposal from Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant for town police coverage.

In the end, the board voted 4-1 to support seeking a proposal from Gallant.

At the board’s meeting Aug. 21, Selectman Mark Belanger asked that a request for a proposal be placed on Thursday night’s agenda. He said the request came from the Municipal Resources Police Subcommittee that is gathering information for a study on consolidating Mexico and Rumford.

However, on Thursday night, Carter, who is on that subcommittee, said the request never came out of the subcommittee meeting. Looking at Belanger, Carter said the request came from a selectman.

Belanger said the subcommittee had one conference call meeting and “a guy there asked for ideas and that’s when I gave him an idea.”

“It’s important to have everything out in the open,” Belanger said.

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Belanger said he wanted information about county police coverage for Rumford and Mexico, separately.

Rumford and Mexico Town Manager John Madigan said he took Belanger’s Aug. 21 request to mean that the subcommittee wanted a proposal from the Sheriff’s Office for both towns together. The purpose of the consolidation subcommittees is to look at savings from consolidating the towns.

Resident Kevin Saisi said he understood the agenda item, as written, was a discussion on a proposal from the Sheriff’s Office, not a request for a proposal.

“You should have the subcommittee make the request,” Saisi said.

Carter said a request for a proposal should outline specifics so apples are compared to apples and not oranges.

Raising his voice, Carter said Rumford has had its own police department for 110 years.

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“By going to the Sheriff’s Office (for police coverage) you would be giving up local control,” he said. Any unspent funds that the Sheriff’s Office budgets for Rumford coverage and is paid by Rumford taxpayers would be retained by the Sheriff’s Office, he said.

“With local control, we have a budget and anything not spent goes into the general fund to offset taxes,” Carter said.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Greg Buccina said he views a proposal from the Sheriff’s Office as an option “that should be looked at.”

“What you’re doing is showing whether you value the service of employees dedicated to this town,” Carter said.

“We embarked on this path of consolidation,” Buccina said.

“You’re looking to save a penny,” Carter said.

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“No, we’re looking to maintain a level of service that is competitive and potentially look at savings,” Buccina said. “We need and value the police we have.”

Carter said by going with county coverage, selectmen would be laying off several people and bringing in deputies “who will not have the same dedication to this town” that Rumford police officers have.

“Anything from the Sheriff’s Office is just an option,” Selectman Jeff Sterling said. “To really get highly emotional is not (necessary).”

“We’re only halfway through (the consolidation study) and you’re already looking to go outside,” Carter said. “Give the study a chance.”

“I can see your passion, but let the subcommittee weigh in on it,” Selectman Frank DiConzo said. “Take a vote.”

Buccina tried to reign in the off-topic discussion, saying the proposal was for a police coverage proposal to go with consolidation committee efforts.

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Selectman Brad Adley weighed in.

“The only reason I’m a little uncomfortable is it didn’t come out of committee,” Adley said. “It wasn’t a committee request and I’m uncomfortable with that.

“If the committee as a whole requested that, I would support it, but this is coming from you,” Adley said, pointing with both hands at Belanger who was seated beside him.

Belanger said he made the suggestion to a facilitator, who went to Gallant for a proposal but was told by Gallant that he wouldn’t make a proposal unless the Rumford Board of Selectmen voted for it.

Belanger said he was only trying to get the information, so he asked for it at the Aug. 21 meeting to be placed on the Sept. 4 meeting agenda to get approval for a letter to be sent to Gallant for a proposal.

“That’s the only way we’re going to get the information,” Belanger said. “It doesn’t mean we’re going to go with the sheriff’s department … It’s just going to be information.

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“We’ll have a proposal, there will be a list of figures, crime statistics — an unbiased opinion of what’s going on,” he said. “Isn’t that what we want? … I know it’s uncomfortable but I think we need to do it.”

Madigan said Mexico selectmen had already approved sending a letter to Gallant for a proposal for police coverage “in knowing that it would be a joint request.”

Buccina asked for a vote on a motion on the table to support seeking a proposal from Gallant for police coverage. It was approved 4-1, with Adley dissenting.

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