DIXFIELD — Selectmen may decide next month whether to share a police chief with Mexico.

Dixfield will lose its longtime police chief, Richard A. Pickett, to retirement in either late January or early February. That’s why selectmen sat in on Monday night’s joint Mexico and Rumford selectmen meeting in Mexico to hear proposals for Oxford County Sheriff’s Office coverage and disbanding Mexico and Rumford police departments or merging the two departments.

Dixfield selectmen didn’t speak until the end of the session to advise the other boards about why they are in a position to possibly share a chief with Mexico or merge with Mexico. So far, they are only listening to proposals, Board of Selectmen Chairman Scott Belskis said Monday night.

He said that prior to Monday’s meeting, Dixfield selectmen had Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant present them with a coverage proposal.

Dixfield has a police chief and four patrol officers, although one officer is provided through a grant that expires in January 2016. Should Dixfield merge with Mexico or share its chief, they would have to find out if that would be allowed by the grant, Town Manager Carlo Puiia said.

Chief Hodsdon explained his proposal Tuesday night, reading from a handout he gave the board. Hodsdon said that since he doesn’t know how the Dixfield Police Department operates, should the board agree to try sharing a chief, he suggested a six-month trial “to see how it goes and move on from there.”

Hodsdon worked 18 years as a police officer in Dixfield, Rumford and Mexico.

Because Mexico and Dixfield police departments are the same size with a chief and four officers each, Hodsdon said Dixfield and Mexico could equally share the cost of his wages and benefits. It would also split Hodsdon’s wage at $13.22/hour between the towns.

With Pickett expected to work 30 weeks before retirement, followed by 22 weeks open for a new chief, Hodsdon said the cost share for Dixfield would be $192,818.45, which would be a savings to Dixfield of $5,418.55. Mexico’s cost share for a chief for 52 weeks would be $189,388.92, a savings of $9,802.80.

Hodsdon said those figures only show the savings over wages. There would be an increase in savings when considering the benefits, as well, he said.

For wages and benefits included, Hodsdon said Dixfield’s share would be $290,238 and Mexico’s share would be $306,363. Three of Dixfield’s officers are paid less than three of Mexico’s officers, who have a union contract wage at $17.51/hour.

Hodsdon said it would be almost impossible to go to a four-man department because of increased detective work and administrative needs.

“I think a merger is doable,” he said. “A couple of you made some good points (at Monday night’s meeting) that we share services already and we’ve had good success with that. We’re not Big Brother trying to take Little Brother over. We’re equals with each other on this project.”

Hodsdon said Mexico and Dixfield police frequently back each other up “and we work well with one another, and I think it would work.”

Speaking to a “what if” merger, Hodsdon also provided estimates of a wages and benefits budget for a chief, two lieutenants and six patrolmen. But that could be reworked to find greater efficiency and cost savings by dropping a lieutenant, he said.

“I believe it is important that both towns understand that combining or merging of our police departments will save money by reducing the number of cruisers, sharing in maintenance costs and equipment costs, to name a few,” Hodsdon said.

Should the merger occur, he said 24-hour police coverage would continue for both towns.

Town Manager Puiia got the board’s permission to place an advertisement seeking applications for a police chief. Belskis said the Dixfield board is in the process of assembling a hiring committee.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.