Voters: Paris keeping cops

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PARIS — Voters made it clear to town administration, Tuesday, June 14, that they want to keep policing services as is, in town, by voting 2-1 to keep the Paris Police Department.

There were 617 residents in favor of keeping the Police Department and 337 who wanted to disband the department and contract with the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office.

Interim Police Chief Hartley “Skip” Mowatt hosted police personnel at his house for dinner to await the election results Tuesday evening. He was pleased with the outcome of the referendum vote.

“We’re thankful to the citizens of the town to show their support for the Paris Police Department, all of the officers are very thankful. We will continue on doing the job they expect out of us. We will continue to be professional and do what we can for the community,” he said. “A 2-1 vote that means there’s a lot of backing from the citizens and that’s commitment from the citizens.

Last summer, selectmen and town administration pledged to cut $500,000 from municipal spending after an unanticipated jump in the mil rate – by 40 cents – left residents asking for tax relief.

As a way to reduce spending, selectmen explored the option of disbanding the Paris Police Department and contracting policing services with the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office.

The proposed Paris Police Department budget comes in at $514,131, which is a cut of $92,809 from the current budget. The spending plan continues 24/7 patrol coverage in town and keeps the department’s seven full-time and five part-time employees. They include a chief, detective, sergeant, four full-time patrol officers, five part-time patrol officers and one administrative assistant.

The fiscal 2017 budget eliminates the school resource officer at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School but Interim Police Chief Hartley “Skip” Mowatt plans to reinstate the position next school year.

Throughout the process, Sheriff Wayne Gallant submitted a couple of proposals for coverage in Paris. The one on the ballot was $363,064 for the first year of service and $324,500 for the second.

It included three full-time deputies assigned to Paris, detective services split between the county’s five detectives and police cruisers. If voters opted to disband the Police Department, taxpayers would have had to pay $41,958 for unemployment and vacation payouts for seven employees on top of the sheriff’s contract.

Mowatt said the Paris Police Department has been around since the 1950s and he is happy it will continue to operate in town.

“I will do my best to move it along and be open and transparent,” he said. “I have an open door policy if anyone in the community wants to come in and see me, I’d be more be delighted to sit down and talk with them about anything in the community I can help them with.”

In addition to reinstating the school resource officer position – which is reimbursed by SAD 17 – Mowatt said the town needs to hire a permanent police chief. Paris has had two interim chiefs since former Police Chief Michael Madden headed back home to Connecticut in September 2015. Jeff Lange served as interim police chief from then until May, when he left to become police chief in Wiscasset. Mowatt took over after Lange’s departure.

“It is up to the town on who the chief will be. Hopefully it will be me,” Mowatt said Monday night. “We need stability and the only way we can get stability is having a chief that’s in that position that is for the town and the citizens.”

This is not the first time policing services in Paris has gone before voters. In 2012, an one-year trial merger of the Norway and Paris police departments was defeated by Paris voters, according to Sun Media archives.

Voters will again weigh in on the Police Department budget during annual town meeting on Saturday, June 18, at 10 a.m. at the Paris Fire Station, 137 Western Ave.

eplace@sunmediagroup.net