HOULTON, Maine — Town officials again have decided to help ramp up efforts to get drugs and drug pushers off the streets by offering additional support to the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.
Town councilors recently chose again to give permission to allow the Houlton Police Department to assign an officer to the MDEA.
The MDEA works to reduce the distribution, availability and use of illegal drugs through a cooperative statewide drug enforcement effort.
In 2006, councilors voted to assign a police officer to the MDEA to help curb the problem. That officer remains on assignment with the agency.
The decision has benefited the town and the area, Town Manager Doug Hazlett said, and the MDEA has garnered funding to bring on a second officer from Aroostook County.
Councilors gave permission for a Houlton officer to apply for the slot.
“This has been a great experience for us so far,” Hazlett said. “This is an opportunity we took advantage of several years ago, and it has worked very much to our advantage.”
If a Houlton officer transitions over to MDEA, the agency will reimburse the town 100 percent for all expenses, including salary, benefits and other costs.
“There will be no cost to the town for this,” Hazlett stressed at the recent meeting.
The officer will be trained by MDEA to track down and arrest drug dealers and to help fight the state’s illegal drug problem.
If a Houlton officer joins MDEA, the reassignment will lead to a vacancy in the department.
Police Chief Butch Asselin said he then would immediately begin searching for an officer to fill the spot.
Asselin said he “fully supported” the proposal, saying MDEA needs more people.
Hazlett said he supported the move, as did council Chairman Paul Cleary.
“Another local officer who may be able to concentrate a bit more on the drug problem in the Houlton area is a good thing,” he said.