The town of Paris, once again, stands at a crossroad. Town officials have the opportunity to craft an agreement for police services with the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office. The Board of Selectmen has been mulling this proposal for months. We have also reviewed all other town departments. While that is what selectmen and budget committees do, it has been particularly important in light of the town’s 2015 revaluation coupled with an increase in the tax rate.

A public hearing regarding the sheriff’s proposal was held Monday, May 2. Many questions were asked and answers will be forthcoming. Another public hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 17, at the Fire Station on Western Avenue.

One point made at the first hearing involved looking at other town departments for savings. I can assure residents that all departments have been carefully scrutinized.

Some citizens believe responsible leadership involves a thorough vetting of alternative delivery of public services. While town administration might be difficult to reconfigure, there are alternatives available for fire, highway and police services.

The select board recently held a workshop with Norway and Oxford officials and fire personnel regarding the possible combining of fire department services. Norway has a working model that serves their needs and Oxford is pretty much in the same boat as Paris. The towns share many of the same per-diem employees and it is not clear how combining forces might benefit either community.

Some citizens have suggested Paris contract out road maintenance and plowing to private contractors. At this time, many other people believe we have a good highway department with responsible and responsive leadership.

In considering the Sheriff’s Office for the delivery of police services, that appears to be an idea whose time has come. Paris is the home base for many Oxford County services. The entire complex on Western Avenue — the Sheriff’s Office, the County Commissioners, the District and Superior Courts and the jail — all occupy land and buildings that contribute zero dollars to Paris’ tax base. Paris pays taxes to Oxford County government to support the activities of county government. A large portion of those activities include providing police services to the 28 municipalities and 19 townships of Oxford County which do not have (or apparently need) their own police departments.

How do all the widows of Hebron, Milton Township, Hiram, Buckfield, Andover, Albany Township, Roxbury, Mason Township, Waterford, Brownfield, Greenwood, West Paris, Stoneham, Locke Mills, Sweden, Newry and Gilead sleep in their beds every night? They sleep well because they are fully and adequately protected by the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department.

The Sheriff’s Department has the depth of employees, resources, training and access to funding that the citizens of Paris can no longer ignore. The Sheriff states in his proposal that three out of four current patrol officers will be hired by his office. I believe him to be a man of his word.

As a selectman, I must consider all aspects of the town’s spending. I have concerns that we will soon need to fully staff the fire department 24/7, as we no longer have enough people who are willing or able, to respond in the unstaffed hours of 6 p.m. through 6 a.m.

According to the Public Utility Commission, the town is expected to remove storm water from sewage running through the Paris Utility District plant. Initial costs are estimated at $662,000. Those are only two examples of future costs facing Paris taxpayers. With ever-tightening federal and state budgets, costs are increasingly being transferred back to local government. School and county government budgets rise, and these assessments are a part of residents’ tax bills, which have proved almost impossible to control.

With the recent resignations of the interim police chief and detective, it would seem as though the time is right to make the transition to county policing. Otherwise, Paris attempts to find replacement employees in an atmosphere of instability.

Rather than attempting to ramp up this department, while still trying to fill the Town Manager position, I recommend that the town contract with the Sheriff’s Department. There would be one less department for a new manager to deal with and Paris gains the services, and greater accountability, from a highly professional force.

It is an idea whose time has come.

Janet Jamison is a selectman for the town of Paris.

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