By a wide margin, voters in Thomaston supported keeping their police department open rather than relying on coverage from the local sheriff’s office.
Residents shot down a referendum question on Tuesday’s ballot that would have dismantled the Thomaston Police Department by a vote of 487 to 192.
During the past year, Thomaston police Chief Tim Hoppe has had difficulty maintaining his department’s roster to cover the town of about 3,000 people. Hoppe has argued that the addition of family health benefits would give him one way to entice officers to the town.
It would cost the town between $570,000 to $620,000 to maintain a five-person police department and add family health benefits. However, the addition of family benefits hinges on negotiations between the town and the union that represents Thomaston’s police officers. Those negotiations are ongoing, according to town officials.
For an estimated $450,000 annual cost, it would have been cheaper for the town to contract with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office for police coverage. However, residents have repeatedly expressed that having their own police department comes down to more than just money.
Following the vote to keep his department, Hoppe said it felt good to have the clear support of the town.
“At the end of the day it’s wonderful,” Hoppe said. “People know that having things can ultimately cost more money, but having the right things in place makes all the difference.”
When the town’s selectboard votes to open the hiring process for the police department, Hoppe said he has enough applications, and reserve officers looking to go full time, to hire a full-time staff of four officers.