April 24, 2018
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Hampden council votes to return federal grant, not hire second school resource officer

By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff

HAMPDEN, Maine — After yet another round of debate, town councilors agreed to return a federal grant that would have been used to cover part of the cost of hiring a second school resource officer.

The 4-2 decision, made last month during the council’s last meeting of the year, is final because the deadline for deciding whether to accept the grant was the end of December, town officials noted earlier.

Councilors Carol Duprey, Ivan McPike, David Ryder and Greg Sirois voted to reject the grant, Town Clerk Denise Hodson said Thursday. Voting to keep the funding were Mayor Tom Brann and William Shakespeare. Councilor Jean Lawlis was absent, Hodson said.

The grant — provided by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS program — would have been used to cover part of the cost of hiring the officer for three years. In accepting it, the town would have agreed to fund the position entirely on its own for the fourth year.

Sgt. Dan Stewart, the current school resource officer, is based at Hampden Academy and also visits other RSU 22 schools as needed. The proposed second school resource officer likely would have been assigned to Reeds Brook Middle School.

During earlier rounds of discussion, opponents of accepting the grant said the town could not afford to cover its share of the cost for hiring an additional school resource officer and that the grant should go to a community that does not have a resource officer.

A cost projection for the position provided by Public Safety Director Joe Rogers showed that despite the $125,000 in federal funds, the cost to Hampden taxpayers would amount to $198,192 based on the four-year total cost.

Town councilors had voted 4-2 in favor of accepting a $125,000 federal grant during a meeting on Oct. 7. After the decision was questioned by a group of taxpayers, councilors took another vote during their Oct. 21 meeting, at which time the previous decision was affirmed.

Since then, however, the town has held local elections that changed the composition of the council, which has two new members.

Hampden is not the first community in Maine to reject a COPS grant. Veazie town councilors also turned down a grant in a 3-2 vote in October 2010. That town had been awarded a $156,747 federal grant that would have been used to hire an additional full-time officer.

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