BETHEL — Selectmen must decide whether to recommend paying for three or four Oxford County Sheriff’s deputies to patrol the town in the coming fiscal year.

Three deputies provide coverage 21 hours a day for $324,500 annually, according to Town Manager Christine Landes.

Sheriff Jim Theriault said if the town continues with three deputies, coverage would drop to 17 hours a day and the cost would drop to $298,309.

Four deputies would provide 24/7 coverage for $389,634, which is about  $50,000 more than budgeted for next year, Landes said.

Theriault and county Administrator Scott Cole recommended four officers.

Theriault said if the town stayed with three deputies, he would ask selectmen to tell him what hours they would like covered.

Hours not covered would require a deputy to respond from another part of the county, which Theriault estimated could take 20 to 30 minutes.

In the past year, Bethel had 1,024 police calls, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Landes said the contracted coverage last year cost about $300 per call.

Deputies’ average pay is $19 an hour, Theriault said.

Business owner Rick Savage of the Sunday River Brewing Co. told Theriault his deputies have done a great job, but 24/7 coverage seemed like a lot for a small town and he’s concerned about the impact on taxes.

He said Bethel pays $444,703 to the county for a combination of services, including Sheriff’s Office coverage.

“We’re paying for a lot of calls in Newry,” Savage said.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, it responded to 387 calls in Newry in the past year.

Selectmen said they would take up the Sheriff’s Office options at their next meeting May 14.

Oxford County Sheriff Jim Theriault, standing, talks to Bethel selectmen (background) about the proposed budget for police coverage. (Alison Aloisio/The Bethel Citizen)