Selectmen hear update on police study

By Kirstan Knowlton

GORHAM — With less than two months until the deadline for the police service contract proposal, Deputy Chief Daniel Buteau from the Berlin Police Department and Chief PJ Cyr of Gorham presented an overview to the board of selectmen about their progress.

In the overview, Buteau explained that the group had met four times since the study started and during those meetings, they’ve exchanged information about case activity and shared concerns that residents have in both communities about police coverage.

Considerations have been made for police coverage of Gorham schools, churches, and special events, along with ATV-related events and traffic.

The study is also looking at equipment needs like, vehicle maintenance, firearms and vests along with what services would be duplicated and how they would address space and training.

Along with additional needs, both departments are considering what can be gained by the merger, like having a full-time detective, prosecutor and juvenile officers.

According to Buteau, with a larger department there is also a potential for an increase in grant opportunities.

“We’ve had a positive back and forth conversation,” Buteau said.

In addition to service proposals, the department will also create an “Opt Out” clause in case either of the departments needs to discontinue services.

During the meeting, Selectman Mike Waddell shared concerns about the start-up date and the timeliness of the report.

“I don’t want to see a report on Oct. 1 that leaves more questions than answers,” Waddell said.

Buteau assured selectmen that there would be a comprehensive proposal to the board at the agreed upon deadline.

The proposal would include two functional budgets for the police department and dispatch, one as a traditional budget leaving the departments as is and the other as a proposed budget with services provided by Berlin.

“We will provide options that are viable, fiscally responsible and makes sense; rather than providing options that people won’t buy into,” said Cyr.

No final answers were available at the time of the meeting, but both departments stressed that all considerations were being made.

“We need two well thought out budgets that we can defend,” Waddell said.

Based on budget cycles, the change would not likely happen until July of 2019, with the contract for services being voted on during the next annual town meeting in 2018.

“We’ve been very thorough.” We are going into the weeds here. We are doing our due diligence,” Buteau said.

The scheduled meeting for the board of selectmen will be held on Monday, Aug. 21, starting at 6 p.m. at the Gorham Town Hall.