MEXICO — The Mexico and Rumford Boards of Selectmen on Wednesday night debated whether the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office or a combination of the towns’ police departments would provide enough manpower to meet law enforcement needs.

During a Nov. 24, 2014, meeting in Mexico, Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant presented a two-year contract proposal to serve both towns. It would cost the towns more than $1.3 million the first year and $1.18 million the second year and provide 12 deputies.

Rumford police Chief Stacy Carter and Mexico police Chief Roy Hodsdon presented a proposal to combine departments and work out of the Mexico police station. They estimated it would cost $1.38 million and provide 15 officers. Rumford has 12 officers and Mexico has five.

Mexico Selectman Albert Aniel said that even though Gallant’s proposal called for 12 deputies, more could be available if necessary.

“The Sheriff’s Office isn’t going to leave us without help if we need it,” Aniel said. “Plus, there’s community assistance programs, where if we need help, officers from another town come in and help us. Sheriff Gallant said during his presentation that if we have a problem, he’d get us more officers. We need to compare apples with apples.”

Aniel said the Sheriff’s Office proposal means Mexico and Rumford would be locked into five-year contracts.

Advertisement

“With our police departments, we don’t know where we’re going to be in the next four or five years,” he said. “The budget could keep rising and rising. With the Sheriff’s Office, at least we know that we’d be locked in at the same price.”

Rumford Selectman Brad Adley responded, “You talk about comparing apples to apples, Albert. The Sheriff’s Office came in with a proposal for 12 deputies. Don Jutton, the head of Municipal Resources, said both towns need 16 officers. Our chiefs said we need 15. What you’re saying about the Sheriff’s Office doesn’t equate with what our chiefs are saying.”

“The sheriff said if we need more officers, there would be more available,” Aniel said. “He said that he has a bigger call force and could call people in if necessary.”

Rumford police Chief Stacy Carter said, “With the Sheriff’s Office, we would have 12 deputies and no municipal department to help us. Right now, we already have access to the Sheriff’s Office if an emergency arises. They can come in today and give us mutual aid. If we continue to decrease the number of law enforcement personnel in the county, there will be no one for him to call from, unless he’s calling someone from Brownville, or another town over an hour away.”

Carter said the department of 15 officers that he and Mexico police Chief Roy Hodsdon are proposing is “more efficient” than each town’s police department by itself, “because we have control over the officers in both towns, so they can be allocated to the service area needed.”

“That’s the benefit of a merged department,” Carter said. “We create efficiencies through the control of personnel.”

Advertisement

Town Manager John Madigan said, “the biggest hurdle we have is figuring out the necessary manpower to deal with the crimes we have in this area.

“I think we’ve whittled it down over the years, and scrutinized it yearly,” he said. “I think what the chiefs have proposed is what we need to provide the proper level of service for our towns. It does, in fact, reduce the overall force by two people.”

“So you’re basically saying that the sheriff’s proposal isn’t good enough,” Aniel replied.

“I’m saying that it’s inadequate from a manpower standpoint,” Madigan said.

“How do you know that?” Aniel asked. “You’re taking Chief Carter’s word on it, who has the self-interest of keeping his position and keeping the police force he has now.”

Madigan said he’s taking Chief Carter’s word on the matter because he and Roy are responsible for figuring out what is best for their respective towns.

Advertisement

“Chief Carter has said very clearly that he has 12 officers in Rumford right now, and that it’s very difficult to keep up with what we’re dealing with today,” Madigan said to Aniel. “You’ve got to listen to that.”

“You’re saying that the Sheriff’s Office proposal is inadequate,” Aniel said. “You’re basically calling the Sheriff’s Office incompetent.”

“No, Albert, I’m saying that the sheriff’s proposal is inadequate for our needs today,” Madigan said. “I bet when the sheriff was making his proposal, he didn’t realize that the calls between our towns increased from 5,700 to 7,298.”

Aniel said that he wished Gallant attended their meetings.

“I cannot believe that the sheriff would draft a proposal that is not adequate for the area,” Aniel said. Turning to the chiefs, he said, “We hear one story from him, and then another one from you guys. I wish he could sit in on some of these arguments and counter-arguments.”

Mexico Selectman Andy Dupuis agreed. “He’s been working in law enforcement for a long time. I don’t want anyone to take anything away from him.”

Adley said the only way he would support the proposal for the Sheriff’s Office is if it included a clause allowing Rumford to withdraw from the contract if there was “a disruption in the town’s tax base.”

“I don’t want to sign a five-year contract, and lo and behold, the mill pulls a quick one on us and we can’t pay them,” Adley said. “At least right now, we can vote on the budget every year. If we sign a five-year commitment, then we’re committed. If they don’t put that clause in there, I’m not interested.”

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login 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.