BANGOR, Maine — Police Chief Ron Gastia applied for federal stimulus funds to pay for six new police officers and found out this week he will get funding for four.
Bangor is one of 18 law enforcement agencies in the state that will split $5,098,572 in federal grants designated for the hiring and rehiring of law enforcement officers, according to statements issued by state lawmakers.
The award doesn’t automatically mean Bangor will get four new officers because the federal grant money has strings attached, Gastia said Tuesday.
The Queen City was awarded $704,880 in stimulus funds, which will cover the costs of hiring four police officers for three years. The city must pay for a fourth year, a requirement of the federal program, and any additional years, Gastia said, adding that “nobody knows” what the economic climate will look like down the road.
“We will go back to [city] council for further discussions,” the police chief said. “The council will decide whether to allow us to hire four, three, two or one” new officer.
The federal stimulus funds will be issued around September, and “we have 90 days [from that date] to decide whether or not we’ll accept it,” Gastia said.
Bangor Police Department has a staffing level of 79 officers, and has two openings right now, he said.
The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Police Service, or COPS, Hiring Recovery Program issued the funds, which were made available by the American Recovery of Reinvestment Act.
“These funds couldn’t come at a more important time,” U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud said in a press release. “This funding will not only help keep Mainers safe, but it will also save jobs that would have been lost due to the recession’s effect on our state and local government budgets.”
In a joint statement, U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, added, “These funds will greatly help to improve Maine’s ability to address criminal justice and public safety issues. This $5 million in grant funding will help make communities throughout Maine safer by providing the state with 30 additional officers.”
Other local agencies that received funds include Boothbay Harbor, $185,180; Caribou Police Department, $177,206; Dover-Foxcroft Police Department $180,085; Milo Police Department, $135,492; Newport Police Department, $168,490; and $149,314 for the Penobscot Nation Police Department. Each of these agencies will get one additional officer.
“The grants will provide 100 percent of the approved salary and benefits for entry level officer positions over a three-year period,” the statement from Collins and Snowe states. “Police departments receiving the grants will then be required to retain the grant-funded positions for a fourth year.”
Once those four years are up, each community must decide whether to keep the additional positions at their own expense or eliminate them.
In a memo Gastia issued to the Bangor City Council in April, he outlined how he would allocate the funds, if approved. He said he would hire one school resource officer, one for community relations, one for the computer crimes unit, one to address violent crimes and two for the special enforcement team.
“I don’t know, at this point, if we’ll get the chance to pick” which positions to fill, Gastia said. “I don’t know whether or not they have limited me.”
The entire list of Maine recipients is available at cops.usdoj.gov.