BETHEL — According to Bethel Town Manager Sharon Jackson, Oxford County Sheriff Christopher Wainwright told her, “he’s not interested in sitting down and negotiating any part of the [police] contract [with the Town of Bethel] because he believes it is a good contract.

“‘If you don’t like it, you can go back to your own police department.’  [He said] he’ll give us cruisers according to the contract and we can have our own police department,” said Jackson.

Jackson relayed the information to the selectboard members at a Jan. 8 meeting. Wainwright told her he was not responsible for any budget increases. It is up to the commissioners who will be applying a 4% increase in the budget over last year.

Wainwright was not at the meeting, but in a subsequent phone conversation, he said, “my frustration is I have continued to deal with different town managers, different selectmen and acting town managers. It seems to be a different message each time … I continue to give out available dates to meet, and ask them what articles [they want to revise], they continue to tell us, ‘they’ll let us know, they’ll let us know.’

Oxford County Sheriff Christopher Wainwright speaks at Bethel’s annual town meeting June 15. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

“Then they change hands, you know the problems with selectmen up there. All that infighting and bickering. We deal with someone else each time. They ask the same questions and we give them the same answers. It’s frustrating … and it has been going on for years,” said Wainwright.

“You understand what’s going on and who is instigating and trying to cause turmoil there. I can tell by all the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests on the contract that the counter received and who is asking for them. It’s the same players and they are causing turmoil within the board.”


He said he has explained that he has no control over the commissioners’ formula, the “fair and actual” cost. “Granted it did go up 10% because it had not gone up for years,” but, he said, he believes other comparable towns pay more than Bethel for the same service.

He said Bethel is paying “just over” $100,000 per deputy. “Health insurance alone is around $20,000. [Oxford County] provides them with a cruiser, training, and equipment, then their salary and retirement,” he said.

At the 2023 town meeting voters approved $431,404 for Oxford County Sheriff’s services. This amount included animal control services.

Del Duca asked if Wainwright had quantified Bethel’s services. “We are going to take for face value that he is giving us the service he is saying he is giving us … The Town of Bethel is going to pay a bill and not have it quantified?” asked Del Duca.

Selectboard Chair Meryl Kelly said there are discrepancies in the contract. “They were charging us based on a theoretical number, instead of a hard number [of deputies on staff] … they haven’t had full staffing in years.”

“It says in the contract that they would provide a schedule,” said Cole.  Jackson said she does not receive a monthly schedule or a budget breakdown, just a monthly log of calls.


Wainwright confirmed what Jackson told the board. One deputy is assigned to Bethel 24/7. He said the  four deputies that are assigned to the town rotate for continuous coverage. He said, “as far as wanting to know who is working which shift, for safety reasons, we are not going to tell you who is not home,” said Wainwright.

Asked if he thinks the police coverage is good, Wainwright said, “You have a deputy there and I think that is adequate for the number of calls… you can see that we have done a great job there, the crime rate has dropped in Bethel … [we provide a deputy] at a very affordable price. I think our billing is still less than what the Bethel Police Department was paying years ago when we took it over. The cost is minimal.”

In response to Jackson relaying the drop in crime rate, Cole said, “What our crime rate is? That’s a deflection … There is no delineation of what Bethel’s portion is [in the county budget],” Cole said she had attended the October county budget meeting.

The Sheriff’s department cost increased 10% last year and Oxford County cost increased 10% last year, pointed out Budget Committee Member Jim Bennett.

Del Duca and board member Pat McCartney suggested the town consider dropping the contract. “If we leave, we would still have coverage,” said Del Duca. ”

“We can’t guarantee they [the deputies] will be in the area,” said Kelly.


“The service is not going to change. They don’t have enough officers to do what they are claiming now… our police coverage will not change if we don’t send them $425,000 dollars [per year] ,” said Del Duca.

Asked what would change if Bethel dropped the contract, Wainwright said the coverage would change. “There will not be a deputy assigned to the town of Bethel specifically like they have now. But it’s hard to sell house lots for a million dollars if you don’t have law enforcement dedicated.

“These are good deputies working hard, it’s frustrating for the men and women in the sheriff’s office to to read [this] in the paper. It’s demoralizing for them and they are doing a great job,” said Wainwright.

Kelly said she would like to show voters at town meeting what they are not getting in the contract. Cole said she would like to have an honest effort to try to enforce the contract.

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