DIXFIELD — Selectmen on Monday shared their suggestions for potential straw poll questions for the Nov. 4 referendum ballot.

Chairman Scott Belskis suggested that residents be asked if they wish to vote on the budget at the polls or by a show of hands at the annual town meeting.

Selectmen voted in March to decide budget items at the polls in June and discuss the warrant articles at the annual town meeting, which is usually the third or fourth week of May.

Selectman Dana Whittemore said he wanted to see a straw poll question on whether residents want the Police Department to continue 24-hour coverage.

“This way, it’ll give us some direction so we’re not putting something on the budget that they’re not even interested in,” he said. “It’s a way to get our finger on the pulse of the community, and to my knowledge, it’s been awhile since we’ve asked that question.”

Selectman Mac Gill said it’s been four years since the question was placed before voters.

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Police Chief Richard Pickett later asked Whittemore, “How many times are we going to throw that question around to the people?

“We’ve thrown this question around many, many times, and they’ve told us many times that they want 24-hour coverage, but not 100 cops in the department,” Pickett said.

“As I go around town and talk with people, I’m finding that people are real concerned that we’re going to do something with the Police Department. They’re getting wound up about it, and I’m not the one asking the questions. They’re asking me when I walk into the room,” he said.

“We’re all getting questions,” Whittemore said. “All I’m asking is we see where the community stands.”

“I’m just wondering how many times we’re going to ask this,” Pickett said. “I think you’d be better off asking people about different sources of police coverage, but I think the people have already said that they want 24-hour coverage.”

Pickett later pointed out a recent situation in Mexico involving a resident who was throwing children off their bicycles and assaulting other residents.

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“Imagine if we didn’t have 24-hour coverage for something like that,” Pickett said. “Instead of having somebody on the scene in three minutes, you would have to wait for somebody to leave their house and drive all the way to town to take care of it.”

Whittemore said that as taxes continue to rise, he has “gotten more people coming up to me asking if there’s something we can do.

“Maybe that means dropping from 24-hour coverage to 18-hour coverage,” he said. “Maybe that means going to a three- or four-man department. It doesn’t hurt to ask the question.”

“I just think those questions have been answered already,” Pickett said.

Belskis said to Pickett, “You say that people have been coming up to you, asking what’s going on with the Police Department. Well, we’ve had many people coming up to us and asking questions. That’s why this keeps getting brought up. We’re all getting questions about alternatives. Let’s ask the question again and see what people say. It’s not going to cost us anything to ask.”

Whittemore said the straw poll questions “help me think about which budget items to consider for the upcoming years.”

Town Manager Carolo Puiia said he would draft the straw poll questions for the selectmen to review at their Oct. 13 meeting.

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