By Christopher Cousins of the BDN Staff: DEXTER, Maine — A vote scheduled for tonight by the Town Council will make permanent a decision last month to cut a dispatcher-secretary at the Police Department, a move that Police Chief Jim Emerson said will cut into the department’s law-enforcement capabilities.
The person affected by the cut, Christine Pooler, left her job last Wednesday in accordance with a June 17 vote to eliminate her position as of June 30. In addition to being the receptionist for people visiting the Police Department, Pooler handled much of the paperwork associated with a variety of tasks at the department. Those tasks will have to be done by Emerson, his four full-time officers and occasionally one of about eight reserve officers.
“It’s been left to me and the other officers to pick up the slack,” said Emerson. “People are used to coming to the department for all kinds of things, and the list goes on and on. The chances of them being able to do that now are going to be diminished considerably, and I don’t think that’s what the townspeople want.”
The budget that has been prepared by the council, which is expected to be finished and voted on at 7 tonight in the Town Council chambers, would result in no increases in property taxes, according to stories published previously in the Bangor Daily News.
Each department head was asked to develop budget proposals with 10 percent decreases from the previous year, but the Police Department’s budget came in with a 12 percent increase.
“We went through it all [and cut all] we could, and I couldn’t cut it as much as they wanted,” said Emerson. “We’ve tried.”
The council voted 4-3 on June 17 to cut the position and take $150,000 from the town’s general fund in order to keep the town’s property tax rate at or near $14.50 per $1,000 of property value.
Councilor David Clukey, Dexter’s former longtime police chief, voted against the cut. He said he viewed the position as too valuable to cut, especially since there were alternatives.
“The town manager led us all to believe that there were other ways to do this without cutting any positions,” said Clukey. “My feeling is that this is a safety issue as far as the community is concerned. I assume there’s going to be quite a crowd at that meeting.”
Town Manager Dave Pearson and Council Chairman Fred Sherburne did not return calls seeking comment on Wednesday.
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