FARMINGTON — At the Aug. 22 Select Board meeting, Ryan Morgan asked the board to consider increasing the Police Department by two to help fight the opioid situation.

“I expressed my concerns to every one of you about the problems with narcotics we are having in our communities,” Morgan told the board. “I have talked with the chief, the assistant chief. What I would like to propose is we add two more positions to our Police Department.”

A full time detective would be responsible for narcotics work, Morgan said. He also proposed raising the base pay for all positions by $5 per hour.

“I know you passed a contract with the Police Department,” Morgan noted. Raising the pay would attract more candidates and would help towards having a full time department actively working towards curtailing some of the crimes that are happening in town, he said.

“There is not one of us that wants to read in the paper that we lost a student because we’re not active enough,” Morgan stated. He said he isn’t normally for spending more money for the town but thinks “it has come to a point that we need to do something proactive instead of being inactive.”

The Police Department is stretched thin as it is, Morgan said. “They have one detective that’s trying to cover everything,” he noted. “We need to start tackling the opiate problem that we have in our community. We are on the verge of being another statistic town.”

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Narcan, while readily available isn’t the solution to the problem, Morgan stated. “The solution is to try to get some of [these drugs] off the streets,” he said. “I don’t want to be that community that sees a middle or high school student pass away because we weren’t proactive.”

Farmington needs to retain officers who know the community, know the people and can tackle this problem, Morgan noted. The Police Department negotiated a contract, went up in base pay, but nearby towns also went up in pay, he said.

“I think it is more than hiring police officers,” Selectman Joshua Bell said. “It is a societal issue, not just a police issue. Police officers are chasing the same people all the time. It goes to the courts and sentencing. How many times do you deal with the same people? It is a cycle.”

Bell would like to see a strategic look taken at what is being done locally and at the state level, perhaps having higher punishments for those distributing narcotics.

Increasing officers’ pay is spinning wheels as other towns will increase theirs to stay competitive, Bell stated.

Police Chief Kenneth Charles said his department is still down two positions, including a detective.

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Seeing statistics, if there are different ways of spending dollars to address the issue were mentioned by Bell.

“It funnels down,” Charles said. “If we put another school resource officer on, it takes an officer off the roads. SAD 9 would love to have school resource officers in the middle and elementary schools. It becomes a funding issue. They reimburse us.”

It’s like the deer issue, Charles said. “Fewer people are getting into hunting, fewer people recognize the rewards of doing police work,” he noted. “Not enough people want to get involved.”

The current class at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy is the first one in 10 to 15 years that had no wait list, Charles said.

Morgan is a landlord, has been affected by opioids through some of his renters.

“I want to be that community that kids are safe and we do have tools in the box to try to stop some of the flow of narcotics,” he said. “We can’t do it at the state, national level. We can attack this at the town level, can do something about this. We are at a tipping point. I encourage you to put this on the agenda.”

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Charles could bring his statistics, his costs could be laid out, Morgan noted. “It would allow time for the public to learn about this and have further input,” he said.

Bell suggested the assistant district attorney be asked to come, provide data on case numbers.

Chair Matthew Smith said he would reach out, ask for attendance at a future meeting.

Charles said getting the numbers for the entire region would be a good start.

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