BANGOR, Maine — City councilors gave final approval Wednesday to accepting a federal grant that will fund four new police officers for three years, but they also agreed to phase in funding for a required fourth year.
The Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, program, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, approved the city of Bangor for four positions this summer. The grant appropriates an estimated $750,000 to the city to pay salaries and benefits for the first three years of the program. The fourth year financial burden will fall to the city at an estimated cost of $320,000 with projected salary and insurance increases.
Before Wednesday’s meeting, the city’s finance committee discussed and approved an amendment proposed by Councilor Richard Stone that would require the city to set up a reserve account to pay for the fourth year. Finance Director Debbie Cyr will work out the details of the reserve account, but it would likely start with $58,000 extra in the 2010 budget and gradually increase from there.
Once four years are completed, the department can either eliminate the positions or keep them at its own expense, but the city must keep the same level of personnel through the length of the grant program. That means when the police department adds four positions and raises its staffing level from 79 to 83, it must keep 83 offi-cers for at least four years.
The idea of setting aside money a little at a time, which softens the burden on the city and its taxpayers, was widely supported by councilors.
“I’ve been saying prioritize for some time and this is a priority,” Councilor Rick Bronson said.
Added Stone: “Phasing is a prudent thing to do,” given the current financial climate.
Bangor Police Chief Ron Gastia said he plans to add two officers to the department’s special enforcement team, which is used in dangerous situations such as armed standoffs, apprehending potentially violent suspects or serving high-risk warrants. Another would take the role of school resource officer and the fourth would be assigned as a community relations officer.
The more important change, though, Gastia said, is that he won’t have to keep taking officers from the patrol division to fill those needs. The positions likely will be added in January 2010.