THOMASTON — Residents passed three warrant articles at a Thomaston special town meeting Wednesday, Sept. 28, including an increase in the current police budget. This budget increase will allow the department to hire additional officers and “revamp” the schedule, giving Thomaston 24/7 police coverage for the first time.

Police Chief Tim Hoppe, who proposed the new schedule system, said it would improve coverage and provide Thomaston a competitive hiring advantage in the midst of a law enforcement officer shortage.

Also passed was funding for an engineering study on Knox Street and the donation of a parcel of land known as Sawyer Pond and Recreation Lot to the town.

Mike Mayo was voted moderator of the meeting.

The police article appropriates an additional $147,406 for the 2022-2023 budget passed at the June town meeting. This extra funding includes a pay increase for officers and money to hire 1.5 additional officers, to combine with a previous half-time position on the force. The additional staffing is necessary to implement the schedule change.

The new schedule will have two officers working per shift in overlapping shifts of 48 hours on and 96 hours of time off. Officers will have a scheduled time and space to sleep during their shifts, as required by law. Previously officers were on call overnight and responding to calls from their homes, sometimes several towns away.

The budget increase also includes funding for renovations to the police station for a sleeping quarters.

At the Sept. 20 public hearing on the warrant articles, Hoppe said the 48/96 schedule has been used successfully for many years by fire and emergency workers, and was a great success at police departments where it was implemented.

Hoppe said this schedule will allow Thomaston officers to have more time with their families, make it easier to plan for when officers are out and will provide 24/7 police coverage for the town.

The 48/96 plan will also reduce police overtime spending for the town and allow Thomaston officers to get better rest on their days off. Hoppe said potential hires will want that guaranteed time off with families, and this will give the town a competitive advantage when hiring.

Hoppe indicated at the public hearing he had already received applications from candidates who were interested in applying if the warrant item passed.

Thomaston Police Department currently has four full-time employees, though they are not fully staffed. With the new budget, the department will have seven full-time positions when fully staffed.

In her written proposal for the increased budget, Town Manager Kara George said the $147,407 is “approximately 1/2 of a tax mil or $95 per year for a home assessed at $250,000 with no exemptions.”

The Knox Street article authorizes the town to spend an additional $12,000 from the Dragon TIF funds for an engineering study of Knox Street by Landmark Corporation Surveyors and Engineers of Rockport. This funding is separate from tax dollars and will not affect resident taxes.

The original $15,000 authorized from the TIF in June for a preliminary engineering report on Knox Street was not enough, according to a Sept. 8 memo from Pollution Control Superintendent John Fancy.

Fancy said the additional funding was needed to cover the costs of the report and to work with CMP on installing utility poles. This would avoid moving the poles later when sidewalks were being built.

At the public hearing, Town Manager Kara George said the Knox Street study will include paving, stormwater, sidewalks, curbs and other repair measures. She said after this study the town would have project costs to present to voters.

The final article for this town meeting accepts a donation of land from the estate of Maurice Sawyer, known as Sawyer Pond and Recreation Lot.

George said the land is near the Oceanside Middle School, and the land will mainly be used to extend the hiking trail.