Police pondered by Paris selectboard

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PARIS — As selectmen continue to mull the future of the Paris Police Department, they decided to hold a workshop to discuss policing options in town next week.

At the Monday night selectmen’s meeting, the board set the workshop for 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21, at the town office, 33 Market Square.

Selectman Vic Hodgkins shared with his colleagues what he called the “Poland model” of policing. He spent several hours with Poland Town Manager Brad Plant going over how law enforcement is run in town. Hodgkins said Poland’s year-round population is roughly 6,000 people, which is comparable to Paris’ nearly 5,200, but Poland’s population swells to 10,000 residents during the summer.

Poland contracts with the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office for two full-time deputies, relies on rural coverage from the sheriff’s department when the deputies aren’t patroling and also has a mutual aid agreement with Mechanic Falls Police Department, Hodgkins said. The cost for the current contract is $208,000 but does not include the price of the patrol cars, which are paid for through a capital improvement plan.

Hodgkins said the town’s valuation is around $330 million, while Poland’s is roughly $665 million, with a current mil rate of $14.20 per $1,000 of assessed value. Paris’ mill rate is $18.30 per $1,000.

“They have a lot more value in their town. If that had our valuation then their current mil rate would be over $28 based on their current spending,” he said. “This is a starting place for a new working model.”

Hodgkins added he’d like to be part of possible future discussions with Interim Town Manager Sawin Millett and Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant.

Selectman Janet Jamison said she would have information about how Bethel conducts its policing before the upcoming workshop.

In other police department-related news, Town Clerk Liz Knox said Interim Chief Jeff Lange put out a request for bids for the department’s 2007 Crown Victoria and golf cart on through Maine Municipal Association and the Advertiser Democrat.

“We are hoping we will have some bids back for you to review at your February 8th meeting,” Knox said.

Sgt. Hartley “Skip” Mowatt said the police cruiser was in pretty good shape.

“It’s drivable,” he said. “It’s the oldest one in the fleet. As we’ve done in the past, when we get a new one, we get rid of the oldest one.”

Seletman Robert Wessels suggested if the town receives low ball bids for the car, to consider allowing the town manager to use it to drive around town to save on mileage.

Knox also informed selectmen of all the places she posted the town manager’s job. Last month former Town Manager Amy Bernard left Paris to take the town manager position in Newry and selectmen appointed Millett to serve as the top administrator during the transition.

Between $1,300 and $1,400 of the $2,500 has been spent on advertising for the job and includes postings on Indeed.com, MMA, the town’s website and Facebook page and in the Portland Press Herald. Knox said she will take out ads in the Advertiser and Sun Journal.

“We’ve received in more applications for the opening at the highway [department] than the town manager,” she said. Dalton Bradley resigned from the highway department last month, according to the Dec. 28 selectmen’s agenda.

“I would rather expend the $2,500 budget sooner rather than later,” Hodgkins said.

Millett gave selectmen a brief update on the town’s financials during Monday’s meeting, informing them he planned to give them a regular update to keep them in the loop. While some accounts, including administration and protection, are running over budget, some are on track, such as social services, and others are below budget, including highway and fire.

“We’re not in bad shape,” he said. “The highway department in particular does not reflect really any snowplowing to date. … That is a little bit of a misleading picture, but it is a good picture at this time.

“We have an issue with the Maine State Retirement system. We have not budgeted the employer share and have not for some years now,” he added, noting the town received a check for $247,000 over the summer for retirement, as did many other municipalities across the state. “Nothing to be concerned about, it’s just that we haven’t budgeted for it in the past.”

In other news selectmen:

  • tabled discussing further how to account for Bernard’s vacation time she was paid.
  • scheduled a joint meeting with the planning board to discuss revisions to the town’s sign ordinance for 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 23, at the town office.
  • authorized Millett to send a letter to Norway Paris Community Television Committee member Ben Rowe informing him the town is considering removing him from the committee if he does not attend meetings. Jamison, who also serves on that committee, said Rowe is a high school student who doesn’t have time to serve.

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