RUMFORD — Dozens of residents from Rumford and Mexico gathered Monday evening in the Muskie Auditorium at Mountain Valley High School to discuss whether they want the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department to provide police coverage for both towns or keep their police departments.

The issue will go before voters in June.

Rumford Selectman Brad Adley said both towns are awaiting legal advice on whether to hold the vote by a show of hands at their June 1 annual town business meeting, or by secret ballot June 9.

Since September 2013, the towns’ officials have been looking at ways to consolidate services and save money. They hired Municipal Resources, a consulting company from New Hampshire, which said both towns could save money by merging.

In November 2014, Sheriff Wayne Gallant presented a two-year contract proposal to serve both towns. He said it would cost the towns $1.32 million the first year and $1.18 million the second year. The proposal would provide 12 deputies to cover both towns.

On April 6, selectmen from both towns voted 6-3 to place two options on the ballot: allow the Sheriff’s Department to provide police coverage for both towns, or kkeep their police departments.

On Monday, Gallant gave a brief overview of his proposal. He said the first year would cost more than the second year because of startup costs, including uniforms, cruisers and equipment.

“After that first year, the number goes down, and we’re confident that we can pretty well hold the line for several years without any changes,” Gallant said.

He said his proposal would have “three people out there Monday through Friday,” and during the evening hours, there would be two officers with a “third officer acting as a floater.”

“I also decided to go to two people at night instead of three, due to the call volume in both towns from 1 a.m. to 5:59 a.m.,” Gallant said.

He added that upon reviewing a 414-day period, he noticed that Rumford received a little over 200 calls from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m., while Mexico received around 120 during the same timeframe.

Rumford police Chief Stacy Carter presented why the towns should keep their departments.

“This isn’t about Wayne Gallant, or Stacy Carter, or (Mexico police Chief) Roy Hodsdon,” Carter said. “This is about police service,” he said. “The Rumford Police Department has been here since at least 1904. Other towns in Oxford County have had votes on whether to disband their police departments and go with the Sheriff’s Office, and with the exception of Bethel, all of them have decided to keep their departments. In Bethel’s case, they were in tough shape. We are not in tough shape.

“Right now, they’re looking to break something that’s not broken,” Carter continued. “All of our officers except one have been through the police academy.”

He said if residents voted to go with the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department, the town would lose local control.

“Sheriff Gallant is not going to be the sheriff forever,” Carter said, which drew a few chuckles from the audience. “What if the new sheriff is not interested in giving us the same deal that Sheriff Gallant gave us with this proposal?”

Carter said his proposed budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year would be $778,776, not counting fringe benefits, a $500 decrease from the previous year.

Hodsdon said the Mexico Police Department runs several community programs, including the Mexico Explorers program, a neighborhood watch program, and a senior watch program.”

“Our department has mentored over 75 youths in the area through the Explorers program since it started in 2007,” he said. “The Mexico Explorers are actually going to receive a nonprofit community service award from the River Valley Chamber of Commerce at the end of April. I’ve poured my heart and soul into it, and so have the Explorers.”

Hodsdon said his proposed 2015-16 fiscal year budget is $421,400, an increase of $2,807 from the previous year.

Mexico Selectman Byron Ouellette said he thought Mexico’s Police Department was the best it’s been in a long time.

“We have an aggressive new police chief who gets a lot of work done,” Ouellette said. “Unfortunately, if we decide to go with the Sheriff’s Office, we may lose some of the programs that we’ve built up. That would be a hard decision to make, but I think the Sheriff’s Office would give us the services that we need. However, it’d be a really tough decision.”

Gallant later said he never said he would completely eliminate Mexico’s programs and that they could figure out ways to somehow keep the programs intact.

Resident Peter DeFillip said he was not in favor of having the Sheriff’s Office provide coverage for both towns because of the loss of local control.

“I prefer a local, area-wide police force,” DeFillip said. “I feel like right now, there is too much of a focus on reducing taxes and not enough focus on making these towns a better place to live. We need to build up the town, and we need to keep a local police force. I also feel like the best policing is community policing, such as allowing officers to walk the streets and interact with the community, and I don’t think we would get that with the Sheriff’s Office.”

Mexico resident George Byam said the Mexico Police Department has done a great job over the last few years and had a tremendous impact on the community.

Mexico Selectman Reggie Arsenault said both towns should vote to keep their police departments.

“Our officers in Mexico are young and well respected,” Arsenault said. “Roy does a really great job running that department. Our officers know the townspeople and the townspeople trust our officers.”

Arsenault added that Hodsdon provides a monthly report to the selectmen, which shows that there are still a “high number of calls coming in, even though our town has a lower population that 20 years ago.”

One resident said he has had “tremendously poor experiences and relationships with the Rumford and Mexico Police Departments,” and felt that the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office would provide excellent service to the area.

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