DIXFIELD — Voters will decide Nov. 3 whether to formally disband the Police Department and continue contracting the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office for services for $280,000.

Oxford County Sheriff Christopher Wainwright, foreground, talks about the coverage his department would provide Dixfield if voters approve Nov. 3. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

If the ballot question fails to pass, a second one asks whether to reestablish the Police Department using money from surplus to supplement the department’s account.

A third question asks whether to spend $399,000 for a used ladder truck for the Fire Department.

The Sheriff’s Office has been providing on-call coverage since Aug. 7, after a vote of selectmen. That vote was prompted by the resignation of Police Chief Aaron Mick, who cited difficulty in recruiting officers, and the lack of enough full-time officers, Town Manager Dustin Starbuck said at the time.

That agreement expires June 30, 2021.

The Sheriff’s Office has provided coverage for Bethel since 2010, when that town’s department was disbanded.

The first question on the Nov. 3 ballot calls for dissolving the department and authorizing the Board of Selectmen to contract with the Sheriff’s Office, transfer $280,000 from the Police Department account for services during fiscal year 2021. It also calls for disposing of unneeded Police Department property with proceeds to reduce the tax commitment in coming years.

Should that proposal fail to win approval, voters would decide whether to transfer $52,718 from surplus to add to the department account and to reestablish a department for fiscal year 2021.

At a public hearing Oct. 19 on three ballot questions, Sheriff Christopher Wainwright said his office would provide three patrol deputies, one on duty all the time. Someone would be on-call between midnight and 6 a.m., or from 2 or 3 a.m. to 6 a.m., depending on the day of the week or holidays.

“We’ll have a complement of deputies who will either be living in Dixfield or an adjoining town,” Wainwright told those at the hearing. “We have two or three deputies who live in Dixfield, and some who live in Canton, Peru, Mexico and Wilton.”

Royal Swan asked what will happen this winter because Road Commissioner Randy Glover lives about 45 minutes from town and has depended on law enforcement for road conditions.

“That man needs to know what he can do and what his crew is going to do,” Swan said.

Board Chairwoman Norine Clarke said, “It’s a valid concern, but not one we’ve addressed yet because we were waiting for other things to fall in place. We don’t want to make too many decisions of who, what, where and when until we know who’s going to be doing what.”

Former town Police Chief Richard Pickett told selectmen, “You want to make sure they have all the information they need to make an informed decision to decide which way they want to go. We want people to understand what they’ll get, and what they have.”

“What it comes down to is dollars and cents,” Selectman Peter Holman said. “The town will not support what you’ve got to have for a full-time police department. Will the people support enough money to have a police department in this town, and do it right?”

On the question of buying a 2009/10 Ferrara firetruck with a 77-foot ladder, voters are asked whether to take $230,000 from the fire department truck reserve account and up to $169,000 from surplus to pay for it.

Town Manager Dustin Starbuck said that on the recommendation of Fire Chief Scott Dennett, the town is looking to replace a 25-year-old ladder truck purchased 10 years ago and has problems.

“We have a very specific truck we’re looking at,” Starbuck said. “This one is nearly 10 years old.”

Dennett said the department’s ladder truck is fully operational, but money was put into it a couple of years ago and more is anticipated in the near future. He estimated that up to half of the calls include the response of the ladder truck, which also serves as the secondary pumper.

Dennett said the firetruck under consideration is being refurbished and, if voters approve, it would arrive in Dixfield within 90 days.

“The plan would be to not have to purchase another firetruck, which would be the pumper, for another eight years. That would provide the time to build up the reserve again,” Starbuck said.

Voting on the three questions will be held from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Dixfield Swasey-Torrey American Legion Post 100 at 8 River St.

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