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Thomaston voters to decide on new police officer

By Christine Simmonds | Apr 08, 2021
Photo by: Christine Simmonds The Thomaston Select Board and Budget Committee meet via Zoom April 7.

Thomaston — The Thomaston Select Board has approved the proposed municipal budget for fiscal year 2021 to fiscal year 2022, as well as the warrant items to go before voters at the annual town meeting.

The board met with members of the budget committee April 7 to finalize these items so they have time to be printed on paper ballots for the upcoming town meeting.

Thomaston voters will also be deciding on four elected positions. One three-year term on the select board, one three-year term on the board of assessors and two three-year terms on the Regional School Unit 13 school board.

The final proposed municipal budget is $3,975,555.

This includes an extra $1,400 that was not in the initial proposal the budget committee finalized April 1. Town Manager Kara George said the extra funds were for a fire department vehicle allowance that was inadvertently left out of the budget at the time.

A separate warrant article was approved by the board to hire one police officer for a total cost of $81,610.

This cost includes salary, benefits and retirement for the proposed officer and if passed will be added to the proposed police budget of $585,688.

While the article did pass to go on the ballot, select board member Sandra Moore voted against it.

Moore said she supports the police department, but the board approved many expenditures for the department in the past year. These included cameras, tasers and electric speed signs.

Police Chief Tim Hoppe was asking the board for an additional police officer.

“I just think it’s a lot,” Moore said.

Select board member Bill Hahn said he agreed with Moore. Hahn said he usually thought of Thomaston as being a quiet town where nothing happens.

“But I think more is happening than I can see,” Hahn added. He asked Hoppe how the additional officer would be used.

Hoppe said he agreed the board approved a lot in the past year, but assured them he had not spent the money frivolously.

“Everyone in town complains about speed,” Hoppe said. An extra officer on the force would allow someone to be on the road patrolling while other officers focused on handling incidents of crime.

“We have people in town who are victims of crime,” Hoppe said. From January, the department handled almost 1,300 complaints in addition to dealing with traffic stops.

While Hoppe said Thomaston was still a safe community, there were crimes happening. “The things you read about that happen somewhere else… those people are moving here,” Hoppe said.

The town and surrounding areas are growing and expanding, and that meant an increase in crime handled by the department.

By hiring an extra police officer, there would be someone available to handle calls while still leaving an officer available to be on the road for traffic violations, Hoppe said.

Currently, if the police get a call and need to investigate, there is not a police presence on the road for the duration of that incident. Often, a single call will take up several hours of time.

Hoppe also pointed to an economic study performed before Walmart moved to town, which stated the town would need to invest in additional public safety as part of the store moving there. This did not happen.

This is not just from incidents that occur in the store, Hoppe said. It is also traffic incidents on Route One near Walmart and other shops in that space.

There was a time when Thomaston did not have any traffic after 6 p.m., Hoppe said. That is no longer the case.

Budget committee member Susan Devlin said Hoppe told the committee about the number of incidents they had to deal with at the store and the surrounding strip, and how handling those took away time that the officers could be investigating other crime or patrolling the streets.

Board member Zel Bowman-Laberge said she read the economic impact study, and it was very informative. She encouraged other members of the board to review it.

“I don’t want to add money to the budget, but I support this,” Bowman-Laberge said. She pointed out that Thomaston is the entrance to many other towns in the area.

Hoppe said if the article passed, he would not be asking for an additional cruiser or training. He hoped to hire someone who was already certified as an officer, and the department would be able to utilize the cruisers they currently had.

Other warrant articles the board approved include article 21, which authorizes the town to spend special funds from Dragon Cement on the Thomaston Green Task Force and extends the contract of Economic Development Specialist Brian Doyle.

These funds are earmarked for spending on economic development in the town, and will not increase the municipal budget.

Another warrant article would repeal the personnel committee ordinance. This ordinance formed the committee as an advisory body to assist in hiring town employees.

However, the town manager form of government states George actually has hiring power, and such a committee is not necessary. Since the committee was formed by ordinance, it requires a town vote to repeal.

The town will hold two public hearings on the warrant items, which include the budget, May 5 and May 13.

The annual town meeting vote will be held June 8 by paper ballot. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

To read a full copy of the warrant articles, contact the Thomaston town office at 354-6107. The office is currently open by appointment only due to COVID-19.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Margaret McCrea | Apr 08, 2021 14:07

Thank you to the Thomaston Board of Selectmen, Town Office Manager Kara George and her tireless team of dedicated employees, and the Budget Committee for coming up with a budget for the upcoming year. It has been no easy task in these challenging times to organize meetings and schedules to make it all come together.  Please show your support by attending the public meetings that are listed. Learn how your local town government works to better understand what your tax dollars are providing.  Many thoughtful hours have gone into the preparation. The above mentioned individuals are all really doing a Herculean job!  KUDOS!



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