MEXICO — Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant answered selectmen’s questions Monday night about the costs, wages and benefits of having his department provide full-time coverage for Mexico and Rumford.

Gallant’s proposed $1.32 million contract for the first year would provide 12 deputies for both towns, he said. The second year would cost $1.18 million and that wouldn’t change, he told Mexico Selectman Albert Aniel.

Gallant said he has done that with Bethel, where the Sheriff’s Office is in its fifth year of providing coverage.

Wage and/or benefits increases, if there are any, would be spread around the other towns in the county, the sheriff said.

“That would fall on my entire police budget, which means your two towns wouldn’t pay for that,” he said. “Thirty-six towns pay for that.”

Aniel asked what a contract should be based on, such as call volume, population or service area.

Gallant said that would be a discussion between the selectmen involved in making the decision.

“I would say that in most cases, it’s going to be based on call volume and your ability to get to the calls,” he said.

“In a contract, it wouldn’t matter what your formula is,” Gallant said. “We’re going to give equal coverage to the entire area.”

In a handout to selectmen, Gallant said that in all but Dixfield’s case, incidents increased in 2014 over 2013. To date, the Sheriff’s Office has handled 7,649 calls, Rumford police handled 4,002 calls, Mexico had 2,221, and Dixfield had 1,057. In 2013, he said his deputies handled 6,406 calls, Rumford had 3,838, Mexico had 1,925, and Dixfield had 1,256.

“I know the manpower I have can certainly handle the calls,” Gallant said. He said the call volume is unpredictable, but Rumford and Mexico calls are increasing and the two towns and the county are “dealing with a lot more serious crime than the FBI says we are.”

Mexico police Chief Roy Hodsdon said he is inundated with detective work. To date, he said he has had to investigate 24 gross sexual assaults this year compared to only 11 last year. Child abuse and domestic violence cases are also rising.

Gallant said his proposed costs are based on 2015 figures. He recommended having a special town meeting to vote on the proposal rather than wait until town meeting in June, if the desire was to start with county coverage on July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

Chief Deputy Hart Daley, who accompanied Gallant at the meeting, said the Sheriff’s Office would immediately give Rumford and Mexico police officers an application should voters OK switching to the county coverage.

“They would still keep working as Rumford and Mexico police officers until June 30,” Daley said. “Come July 1, they would just change uniforms and keep going.”

Daley is also a Dixfield selectman, but said he was speaking as a member of the Sheriff’s Office.

“Everything you say is kind of a no-brainer” to go with the county proposal, Rumford Selectman Brad Adley said.

Mexico and Rumford Town Manager John Madigan said the only way consolidation will happen is if there are financial savings in all three towns.

With the proposal presented by Rumford police Chief Stacy Carter and Mexico police Chief Roy Hodsdon, both departments would merge and work out of the Mexico police station.

Carter proposed a budget of $1.38 million with 15 police officers, which is a savings of $120,632 from both towns’ current budgets. Rumford has 12 officers and Mexico has five.

Carter said the advantage of going with his proposal is that any money not spent in the budget reverts back to the general fund to be used to offset taxes. Additionally, any revenue collected would go to the towns and not the county budget.

Rumford selectmen Frank DiConzo and Mark Belanger and Mexico selectmen Aniel and Byron Ouellette said the police budgets in both towns continue to increase.

Carter said the county comes in lower on wages because they offer a lower wage, but Aniel and Ouellette objected to Rumford’s wages for its police officers, saying Mexico taxpayers cannot afford them.

“We can’t afford the wages in Mexico,” Aniel said. “Our budgets go up every year, but our population is dying off and there aren’t enough new people coming in.”

Belanger said Rumford is constantly hiring and training new people, which he said is one thing neither town would have to pay for if there is county coverage.

Rumford Selectman Greg Buccina said he felt apprehensive about going with county coverage.

“There are a lot of advantages to go with the Sheriff’s Office and costs would be less in the long run,” Ouellette said. “In the long run, I see savings, but you have to give up something and that’s change, and change can be scary.”

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