BAILEYVILLE, Maine — Town councilors agreed this week to pursue two new police patrol positions under the federally funded stimulus program.
The Community Oriented Police Service, or COPS, Hiring Recovery Program — part of the American Recovery of Reinvestment Act — is a three-year grant program with the requirement that the town pay for a fourth year, unless it can demonstrate that it is financially unable to do so.
The town is requesting $420,000 to hire two full-time police officers.
Chief Phil Harriman requested at a Town Council meeting Monday night that he be permitted to submit the application. It would allow the town to retain its 24-hour police coverage, which is something the town wants, Interim Town Manager Dottie Johnson said.
Around-the-clock coverage was cut earlier this year after an officer who resigned to work for the Washington County Sheriff’s Department was not replaced. Town officials decided during budget meetings that they could not afford to fill the full-time position.
Baileyville has taken major hits to its budget after the Montreal-based Domtar decided two years ago to shut down its paper machine. Earlier this year, the company announced it planned to idle its pulp mill, tossing more than 300 people out of work indefinitely.
To deal with the financial stresses, town officials have cut the budget rather than increase taxes.
Harriman said that federal funds were available to pick up the slack.
“From what I understand, there is about $1 billion going into the Bureau of Justice Program for what is called the COPS rehiring program,” he said. “It fits for towns like us who are too financially distressed to retain police officers or to put police officers back into the department to fill it up.”
The chief said the application was due this week.
Harriman said he plans to retire within 2½ years, and the additional two officers would increase the department’s staff to five. Once he retired, that number could be reduced to four officers.
Unlike other grant programs, which require the town to pick up the cost of an officer after three years, the COPS program is different.
“Unlike the Cops and Schools Program, if the town is still experiencing financial distress, we can ask for a waiver of the one-year retention [part] of the program,” he said.
The councilors gave their approval and told Harriman to submit the grant.