JAY — Selectpersons voted 3-2 Monday not to accept a federal grant to provide $125,000 over three years for an additional full-time police officer.

The town would have been responsible for $91,854 over the three years, plus having to solely pay for the position for a fourth year, a requirement of the grant.

The Police Department has been reduced by two positions the past few years. Voters approved a police budget in April for 2017-18 by one vote that eliminated a full-time detective position as of July 1.

The budget did include $16,000 for a part-time position to allow a detective to do some investigation work. The detective left the department in September.

The reduction was made to help offset the second of three payments for $1.33 million to Verso Androscoggin LLC to settle a tax dispute.

The final payment is due in 2018-19.

The board voted in June to submit the grant application to the U.S. Office of Community Oriented Policing Services for the 2017 Hiring Program. 

Police Chief Richard Caton IV told selectpersons Monday that if the board did accept the grant, they would eliminate the part-time position and use the $16,000 in the current budget to help pay the town’s share of the grant.

The fourth-year would cost the town $72,284 for wages and benefits that were factored using a family health insurance plan, Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere said.

Resident Lester Deane said he didn’t understand why the board thinks they can expand the force since voters eliminated a position in the current budget.

If the paper mill shuts down, he said, he did not believe too many people would be able to afford their taxes.

Selectpersons Keith Cornelio said he was leaning the same way as Deane because it is not known whether the mill will continue to run. If the mill goes down then Jay and property taxpayers will be hurting.

Resident Marilyn Morse said she has had to call the Police Department a number of times in the past few years, including for a burglary, and they have been there. If they didn’t have a force then the response time would be longer.

“I think they are bare bones as it is just like the other departments,” she said.

Morse, Deane and others said the Police Department is doing a good job.

“I can tell you this Police Department is quick” to arrive, Deane said.

They are there before the ambulance, he said.

With some medical issues in the department it has been difficult for an officer to do investigations, Caton said when asked if detective work is continuing.

It is a huge burden not having a full-time detective, he said.

Cornelio pointed out that Turner, which has a larger population, does not have a police department and depends on the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office and the Maine State Police for coverage.

Selectperson Judy Diaz said it would be more prudent to look at accepting the grant and the position during budget-setting meetings that begin in January.

Caton said the federal agency had already sent an email to see if the town would accept or reject the grant.

Morse asked whether crime continues to go up.

“We are staying consistent if not going up,” Caton said

The District Attorney’s Office has commended “our Police Department” on the thoroughness of its reports, LaFreniere said.

Cornelio, Diaz and McGrane voted not to accept the grant while Vice Chairman Tim DeMillo and Chairman Terry Bergeron opposed.

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Jay Police Chief Richard Caton IV, standing, explains to selectpersons Monday a federal grant the town was offered to pay for the majority of a full-time police officer for the department for three years. The town would be responsible to pay 25 percent of the cost over three years and 100 percent of the cost the fourth year. Selectpersons rejected the grant, 3-2. (Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal)

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