THOMASTON — Due to continuing shrinking number of officers within the Thomaston Police Department and a difficulty to fill open positions, Thomaston voters decided Tuesday, June 11 whether to disband the town police department and hand over the town’s law enforcement duties to the sheriff’s department.
Voters largely decided to keep the local police department by a vote of 487-192.
The question read: “Shall the town vote to disband the Thomaston Police Department and to authorize the Selectmen to contract with the Knox County Sheriff’s Department to provide police protection to the Town of Thomaston at such terms and conditions as the Selectmen deem appropriate?”
The largest factor resulting in the lack of an adequate number of police officers within the Thomaston Police Department concerns benefits, namely, family health insurance benefit packages.
When patrolman Jacob Labo resigned from the Thomaston Police Department in March to accept a position with the sheriff’s department, Labo cited the sheriff’s department’s ability to provide family health benefits to its officers, according to an excerpt of Labo’s resignation letter read during a March 25 Select Board meeting.
“I strongly believe that in order for the department to remain, the town must provide family health benefits to keep pace with other local departments and to spark interests for those thinking about working for the Thomaston Police Department,” Labo wrote, in part, in his resignation letter.
Tim Hoppe, Thomaston Chief of Police, stated at a March 11 Select Board meeting an ideal number of officers staffing the department would be seven. The department is currently staffed by three reserve officers, in addition to the chief of police.
Hoppe also noted the sheriff’s department is currently providing coverage to Thomaston on Sundays and Mondays, the slowest days for the Thomaston Police Department.
A packet was distributed at an April 29 public hearing regarding the referendum question detailing the numbers behind the ballot question with exact numbers depending on which of six different full family health insurance plans is selected.
The packet, including a letter from Thomaston Town Manager Val Blastow, Jr. noted Knox County Sheriff Tim Carroll submitted a proposal to cover Thomaston seven days a week, two shifts per day at a cost of $450,000 for one year.
Keeping the town’s police department as is would cost between $572,543.67 to $620,525.91, the packet notes, “based on an average of 6 different full family health insurance plans through Maine Municipal Employee Health Trust.”
The costs for the current union provided Allegiant Care full family health care plan would be $632,461.51, according to the packet.
Starting salary for an officer, including total wage and benefit, would be $50,431 annually, whereas Thomaston’s is $61,095.17.
Reach George Harvey at: email@example.com.