In March of 2002 the Public Safety Advisory Committee was formed by the Town Council and charged with the task of assessing overall structure, manning levels, and funding requirementfor the municipal departments responsible forproviding public safety support for the Town of Dexter. As part of that task we were asked to also provide recommendations, if any, that may be considered for future implementation. Obviously, with the current economic situation the issues of efficiency and cost were high on our list of concerns. However, throughout the process we were reminded time-and-time-again about the critical importance of maintaining the level of services necessary to provide for the safety and welfare of the community. Since our public safety agencies are staffed by full-time, part-time, and "On-Call/volunteer" personnel many issues concerning the level of training and proficiency of department personnel was also addressed. Over the course of several months the group has met with the leadership of our Fire Department, Ambulance Service, and Police Department as well as representatives from outside agencies that either directly or indirectly support the Town's public safety needs. We hope that the concerns, ideas and recommendations that have been provided in this report will be favorably received by the Town Council.
II. Fire Department
The Dexter Fire Department is a municipal fire department staffed entirely by "On-Call Firefighters". Although personnel within the Department generally refer to themselves as "Volunteers", state statutes are very explicit in describing "volunteer firefighters" as those individuals that receive no compensation for their services. In respect to the Dexter Fire Department, the officers are paid annual stipends in varying amounts and all personnel are paid an hourly amount for time spent for training and responding to emergency calls. The Fire Department responds to approximately 120 calls per year. General procedures for the operation of the Dexter Fire Department is provided in Chapter 3.8 of the Dexter Code of Ordinances.
In the process of conducting our review of the Dexter Fire Department it became immediately obvious that the most significant problems they currently face are training and personnel related.
B. Observations & Recommendations.
a. Observation: The Dexter Fire Department is currently organized in the traditional form of a Municipal Fire Department with a Chief, Assistant Chiefs, and other support officers. The Chief is appointed by and reports to the Town Manager, and functions as a municipal "Department Head". Other Fire Department officers are elected by the general membership. The organization's structure appears to functionally sound and meets the needs of the Department and the community.
b. Recommendation: Future manning shortfalls, training requirements, and demands on Department leadership will inevitably drive the concept of rural fire protection to become more formalized as a regional responsibility. Serious consideration should be given to initiating dialogue with surrounding communities to determine the level of support for such an initiative. We envision the creation of a "Regional Fire Department" headquartered in Dexter, but providing support and utilizing resources from other participating communities. An informal regional arrangement already actually exists in the form of mutual aid agreements between communities that have fire departments. However, in order for such a concept to work effectively we feel that over a period of time it would require the creation of a limited number of full-time supervisory fire fighter positions, including a full-time chief for this concept to work effectively. Some of the advantages of creating a regional fire department would be standardization of training, the ability to draw personnel from a wider population base, greater purchasing power, and reduced capital costs.
a. Observation: The Department is currently manned by about thirty-sixfirefighters who are all described as being in "on-call" status. They are officially classified in the Town of Dexter Personnel Guide, as Category F Employees. This category of municipal employee receives no benefits beyond those mandated by law, ie., FICA and Worker's Compensation Insurance. Although manning levels are currently adequate, there is concern that the number of personnel will dwindle in light of increased training demands placed on the individual firefighter. Because the Department's leadership performs their duties on a "part-time" basis there is also concern about their ability to fully comply with the growing volume of technical, safety, and operational mandates dictated from both the state and federal levels. These requirements translate into the dedication of more time by Department supervisors and more training time for individual firefighters to meet and maintain satisfactory proficiency levels.
b. Recommendation: Because of the increasing responsibilities levied on the Department's leadership, it is strongly recommended that the position of Fire Chief be made into a full-time position as a municipal employee. Clearly, there is enough work to employ a qualified person in this capacity, and it would provide an enhanced level of supervision, accountability, and oversight for the organization. Additionally, other responsibilities associated with the Chief's position, ie Building Inspector and Emergency Management would be much better served. Once such a position is created, serious consideration should also be given to changing the process of selecting other officers within the Department from "elected" to "appointed", thereby structuring the organization much like other Towngovernment departments. Additionally, it was the Committee's assessment that perhaps some of the concerns about meeting training levels and personnel retention could be effectively addressed by simply increasing compensation rates for training time. Currently Department personnel are paid $2.50/hour for training sessions.
a. Observation: FY 2003 funding for the Dexter Fire Department is $107,203 which includes all operating, personnel, equipment, and capital costs.This level of funding reflects favorably with communities throughout the state that have similar populations (In 2001 the average cost for Fire Department operations for communities with populations of 3,500 - 4,999 was reported by the Maine Municipal Association to be $162,260). The Fire Department has a dedicated Capital Reserve Fund for acquisition of new fire trucks. The next purchase of a new truck is planned for FY2005 with an anticipated cost of approximately $200,000. Currently about $130,500 has been dedicated to the purchase of this major equipment item; however at the current contribution rate the amount set aside in the Capital Reserve will fall short of the amount required.
4. Equipment & Facilities.
b. Recommendation: Increased funding is required to support personnel and capital costs associated with the Fire Department. Compensation for Emergency Response time is currently paid at a rate of $6.25/hr. The general consensus is that this rate should be raised to the $10 - $11 range over a three year period. The cost of funding such an action would mean an additional $15,390 per year. Also, additional training dollars should be set aside during the next budget cycle to increase compensation for training time. The goal should be to bring the level of training compensation up from the $2.50 per hour rate being currently paid to minimum wage levels of $6.25 per hour. This action would add approximately $7,500 to the Department's annual operating cost. The total package, when fully instituted, would add about $22,890 to the annual cost of Department operations. Furthermore, the annual contribution to the Fire Department Capital Reserve should be increased to a level that will support the plan to purchase a new truck in FY2005. Finally, consideration should be given to funding a full-time position of Fire Chief. The Committee recognizes the expense of creating such a position; however, we feel that because of the increasing complexity associated with the role of Fire Chief the community's transition to a full-time position is not only essential, it is inevitable. The total cost associated with the creation of a full-time Fire Chief position is projected at about $50,000 (includes benefits).
a. Observation: The Dexter Fire Department is generally well equipped with the tools and fire fighting support equipment necessary to perform their duties. The Department's facility, although built in 1955, is adequate in size to house all vehicles and equipment. Major equipment items include SCBA gear, jaws of life, and thermal imaging camera. The Department possesses four (4) primary fire fighting vehicles and one (1) support vehicle. Generally the fire fighting vehicles are replaced on a 20-year rotational basis with the Department purchasing a new vehicle every 5-7 years. The current number of vehicles appears adequate to provide the necessary services to the community. The following is a summary of emergency/support vehicles:
5. Scope of Responsibilities
1996 Freightliner Fire Truck
b. Recommendation: The Department is scheduled to procure a new fire truck in 2004 (FY2005), in all probability replacing the 1966 International Fire Truck. However, current levels of contribution to the Fire Truck Capital Reserve Account have been less than required to meet the scheduled equipment purchase. Contributions to this reserve fund need to be dramatically increased in FY 2004 in order to meet Departmental goals. The concept of having a "support vehicle" is valid, particularly in view of the number of auto related responses required by the Department where special extraction equipment is necessary. However, the luxury of having such a dedicated vehicle adds substantial operating costs to the Department. Future acquisitions should incorporate the concept of a dual-purpose fire-fighting and support vehicle, with the Department scaling back to operating only four vehicles. Because there are several lakes in the area that present a potential situation where a water rescue may be required, we recommend the Department acquire a small boat with outboard motor to help facilitate a water or thin-ice scenario rescue.
1992 Cummins Fire Truck
1985 International S-1900 Tanker Truck
1966 International Fire Truck
1986 Ford Support Vehicle
a. Observation: The Dexter Fire Department is relatively heavily tasked considering the size of the Department and the fact that it is made up entirely of "On Call" Firefighters. Under the current arrangement, the additional responsibility of the Fire Chief to function as the Town's Building Inspector and perform a key role in the development and execution of the Town's Emergency Management Programs is unrealistic. Limited time, resources, and training to adequately perform these duties have been limiting factors.
6. Other Comments:
b. Recommendation: In order to effectively address the issue of additional responsibilities for the Fire Chief, the Town needs to move toward creating a permanent full-time position of Fire Chief.
During the course of the Committee's review of the Fire Department several concerns were raised regarding the level of training being received by Department members and compliance with federal mandates. Of particular concern was the need to place increased emphasis on Bio-Hazard protection for personnel, and development of an Exposure Control Plan.
The Dexter Fire Department is providing effective support to the community and surrounding region. Issues regarding future funding, manning, increased training requirements and the ability to comply with escalating levels of both federal and state standards place a significant burden on the Department and it's leadership. Without a doubt, some degree of "regionalization" will be required to meet future demands and insure that adequate manpower and funding are available to operate a safe and effective fire fighting operation. The Town of Dexter should take a leadership role in any initiative to regionalize fire protection services. This process could begin with the appointment of a special committee to develop a long range plan and initiate a dialogue with surrounding communities. In conjunction with a regionalization initiative, we envision that over the long term, the Town should create and fund one or more full-time positions to support the increasing demands on the Department. Additionally, funding should be provided to adequately support capital equipment purchases, and increasing the level of compensation for the "on-call" firefighters.
III. Ambulance Service
The Dexter Ambulance Service is a municipal function funded by annual appropriations through the Town and staffed with four "part-time" personnel andapproximately twelve "Per-diem" personnel. The Ambulance Service Directorand Service Chief are paid annual stipends, the "part-time personnel are paid an hourly wage, and the Department's "Per-diem" personnel are paid at an hourly rate for response time to calls as well as a small hourly amount for the time spent while in "on-call" status. The Service is generally available to respond to calls on a 24-hour basis, however currently lacks the personnel and certification to support situations requiring Advanced Life Support (ALS). The Dexter Ambulance Service responds to an average of 600+ calls annually with approximately half of those calls requiring ALS support. Revenues derived from the Service's operation generated in excess of $100,000 for the Town in FY2002.
It became obvious during the review process that the issues surrounding the operation of the Dexter Ambulance Service go much deeper than simply matters of funding and structure. The emotional ties the community has to the Service are extremely strong, and there was a unanimous consensus that the current level of coverage (24-hours/day, 365 days/year) provided by the Service should continue.During the course of the review process the Committee met with officials from Mayo Regional Hospital and Sebasticook Valley Hospital to discuss options that might be available regarding some level of integration with the Dexter Ambulance Service.
The most serious problems facing the Service are personnel and training related. The newly appointed Director and Service Chief have targeted the resolution of manning issues as their number one priority. However, the Department's funding levels, relatively low wages, and the uncertainty about the Service's future has seriously eroded employee morale. The inability to recruit and retain an adequate number of personnel who meet the qualifications of Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) is a serious limiting factor for the Service.
B. Observations & Recommendations.
a. Observation: The Dexter Ambulance Service is headed by a Director who functions as the Department Head and is appointed by the Town Manager and confirmed by the Town Council. The Service Chief is designated as the second-in-command and is appointed by the Director with approval from the Town Manager.The Director provides overall leadership for the Department while the Service Chief is charged with the responsibility to oversee day-to-day operations. Other officers, who are also appointed by the Director, include a Training Officer, Medical Control Officer, and Crew Chiefs. Within the Service there is an Executive Committee that addresses personnel issues, and a Finance Committee which aids in the development and administration of the Department's annual budget and formulation of long range initiatives. The function of billing for the Ambulance Service is performed by one of the municipal clerks who assumes that responsibility as an additional duty. Authority and general procedures for the operation of the Ambulance Service is provided in Chapter 2.5 of the Dexter Code of Ordinances.
The Department's organizational structure is fundamentally sound; however, the fact that both the Director and Service Chief are "Per-Diem" employees who perform their supervisory duties on a "part time" basis makes it difficult to provide effective day-to-day operational oversight. Often this arrangement places unrealistic demands on these two officers, particularly in view of the increasing level of compliance standards and training requirements.
b. Recommendation: The current organizational arrangement is adequate to meet the needs of the community. However, should the current trends in manpower, certification, and training levels continue, there is a serious question regarding the Department's ability to continue to provide effective 24-hour coverage. Consideration should be given to entering into a cooperative arrangement with Mayo Regional Hospital to assume responsibility for the manning and training of the Dexter Ambulance Service. If that occurs, an organizational restructuring will be required.
a. Observation: The Dexter Ambulance Service is currently staffed by about eighteen (18) persons, including twelve (12) EMTs and six (6) drivers.The EMTs are certified at the Basic and Intermediate level. Dexter currently has no certified Paramedics on staff. Four of the Department's personnel are classified as "Permanent Part-Time" municipal employees and are paid hourly wages ranging from $6.25 to $8.00 per hour with no medical benefits provided, and are classified as Category C employees as defined in the Town of Dexter Personnel Guide. These positions are designed to fill the Department's manning needs on a weekday basis from 6:00AM until 4:00PM. The Department has had difficulty keeping these positions filled due primarily to the low level of compensation and lack of benefits. The remaining Department personnel are considered to be on "Per-Diem" status and are paid wages based on the time they spend in "On Call" status as well as the time logged in responding to calls. Call Response wages paid to Per-Diem personnel ranges from $6.25 to $8.15 per hour depending the employee's certification level. Additionally, Per-Diem employees are paid $1.00 per hour when they are scheduled to be in "On-Call" status on weekdays, and $1.50 per hour when scheduled to be in "On-Call" status on weekends and holidays. Hourly wages paid to all Department personnel are generally $1.00 to $2.00 per hour less that what is being paid for the same positions with private and hospital ambulance services in the region. Currently, none of the Ambulance Service personnel are paid for time spent attending mandatory training sessions. The Ambulance Director is paid an annual stipend of $4,000 and the Service Chief a stipend of $2,500.
Only one individual in the Department is currently certified to the level of Paramedic and as a result, the Dexter Ambulance Service cannot provide ALS services. This means that in addition to a Dexter Ambulance responding to an ALS situation, an ambulance from Mayo Regional Hospital usually also responds. Accordingly, this frequently means two ambulances are dispatched to an emergency call. Recent changes in Medicare payment policy prohibit the "dual billing" for ambulance services, therefore, the unit providing ALS support usually receives payment. This results in a loss of substantial revenues for the Dexter Ambulance Service. Additionally, other ambulance services that are ALS certified have begun to charge the Town for those services when they are required to respond. This adds to the operational cost of the Department and all indicators point to the probability that this trend will continue.
Retention of qualified personnel is an ongoing problem for the Dexter Ambulance Service. Availability of qualified personnel, low compensation,lack of fringe benefits, and the pressure exerted by competitive organizations all serve to create an environment where keeping qualified EMTs is difficult. This has resulted in situations in which the weekly work schedule cannot be filled and ambulance coverage is provided by other agencies. Occasionally, the lack of drivers has necessitated Fire Department personnel to be called in to operate the ambulance. The added element of low Department morale created by a general uncertainty about the Service's future has made the situation even more difficult.
b. Recommendation: Two scenarios are worthy of consideration in the respect to manning:
(1) Assuming the Dexter Ambulance Service continues to operate as a municipal department, the issues regarding supervision, retention of personnel, training, and compensation must be addressed. First, levels of compensation for both Part-Time and Per-Diem employees must be increased. Second, all Department personnel should be compensated an hourly wage for time that's spent attending mandatory meeting and training sessions. Compensation for mandatory training should mirror what is being paid to Fire Department personnel. Third, the status of the Department's four Part-Time employees should be changed to Permanent Full-Time, which would include health benefits. Fourth, the Service should set a standard of having at least two Paramedic qualified EMT's. The level of compensation paid to the Paramedics should be commensurate with that paid by Mayo Regional Hospital. Finally, the stipends paid to the Ambulance Service officers should be increased to more close align with stipends paid to Fire Department.officers. Assuming all the proposed actions are instituted, the additional cost to the Town would be approximately $56,000 annually.
(2) Enter into a contractual agreement with a regional hospital that would effectively shift the responsibility of staffing, training, and billing to the hospital. In effect, the Town of Dexter would contract the hospital to staff the Town's Ambulance Service. In such a scenario it is envisioned that the hospital would receive all or a percentage of the gross revenues for the Service's operation and the Town would retain ownership and maintenance responsibilities for the facility and equipment. In negotiating such an arrangement the Town's goal should be to insure that a level of service is retained that includes ALS capability, that the operation retains it's identity as the Dexter Ambulance Service, and that the net overall cost to the community remains consistent with current levels of appropriations. One important aspect of such an arrangement would be that Mayo Hospital would assume all responsibilities related to personnel, including payroll, training, and employee benefits. Additionally, the Town should insist on guarantees from the hospital that all current Dexter Ambulance employees are offered the opportunity for employment with the in a capacity equal to or greater than their current position with the Dexter Ambulance Service.
a. Observation: The Dexter Ambulance Service's funding to support operations for FY2003 is $112,626, which represents a modest increase of $5,850over the previous year's funding level. However, this year's funding did not include any contribution to the Department's Equipment Capital Reserve Fund.Increased costs are attributed primarily to the addition of four Permanent Part-Time personnel to the staff. Previously the Service was staffed exclusively with "Per-Diem" employees. Revenues for FY 2002 totaled $100,267 which exceededprojections by more than $5,000. The fact that the Department exceeded their revenue projections for the first time in a number of years can be attributed tomore aggressive billing on the part of the Town. Actual expenses for the Department in FY 2002 amounted to $110,489, which translates into a net operating cost of $10,222 for the Dexter Ambulance Service. It is speculated that if the Dexter Ambulance personnel structure were expanded to include paramediccertified personnel, the ALS service currently provided by other agencies would besignificantly reduced, and revenues would be increased.
4. Equipment & Facilities.
While the overall numbers for FY 2002 are encouraging it should be noted that personnel costs have increased for FY 2003, no contribution was made to the Ambulance Capital Reserve Fund in the FY 2003 budget, no major equipment wasbudgeted for acquisition in FY 2002 or FY2003, and the Department must cope with continuing personnel retention issues. In light of all of this, revenues for FY 2003 are projected to remain relatively constant.
b. Recommendation: If the Dexter Ambulance Service is retained as a municipal operation the following funding actions should be taken:
(1) Conduct a review of fees being charged by the Dexter Ambulance Service to determine if any increases are warranted.
(2) Insure that an adequate contribution to the Ambulance Capital Reserve Fund is incorporated in the FY2004 municipal budget that would permit the Service to acquire a new ambulance during the FY2006 budget cycle.
(3) Provide funding in the FY2004 budget cycle to support increases for the personnel programs cited in Section 3 (Manning).
a. Observation: The Dexter Ambulance Service operates out of a facility that was constructed in 1989. The building is reasonably well maintained and meets the needs of the Department. The Service operates two (2) ambulances, a 1999 Ford and 1995 Ford. Both are diesel powered and in good condition. The Department's equipment is well maintained and effectively provides for the needs of the Service and community.
5. Scope of Responsibilities.
b. Recommendation: Continue to acquire vehicles on the current scheduleand make contributions to the Ambulance Capital Reserve Fund that will permit such a acquisition within a reasonable time frame.
a. Observations: The Department is relatively heavily tasked considering it's size, the number of calls responded to monthly, and the fact that the majority of the Department Personnel function as "Per-diem" employees who generally perform their duties in an "On-Call" capacity. Given the level of training and certification required to staff such an operation it is understandable that there are difficulties retaining qualified personnel. Because of the personnel situation the Department's ability to routinely provide 24-hour/7-day coverage is often in question.
6. Other Comments:
b. Recommendations: In view of the current limiting factors, the Ambulance Service should not be tasked with any additional responsibilities unless the availability of qualified personnel can be assured.
During the review process the Committee met with officials from both the Sebasticook Valley Hospital and Mayo Regional Hospital.Both hospitals seemed genuinely interested in providing some level of contractual services to the Town. In the event the Council elects to proceed in that direction we recommend that a special committee be created to aid in the process of conducting a public awareness campaign and development of a suitable contractual arrangement.
The Dexter Ambulance Service is providing an effective level of support to the community; however, there are concerns about the Department's ability to continuing to provide around-the-clock coverage if personnel retention issues remain unresolved. Because of the nature of the matter and the Committee's position that the Dexter Ambulance Service should remain intact with no reduction in the level of coverage, it is clear that there are only two options available to the Town. The Service should be funded in accordance with the recommendations provided in this report, or a contractual arrangement should be negotiated with aregional hospital to assume responsibility for manning, training, and billing services.
IV. Police Department
Towns in Maine are not required to provide police protection services; however; when communities have no local law enforcement organization they must rely primarily on the Maine State Police or county sheriff. The operation of municipal police departments must comply with a number of federal and state requirements including those set forth in Title 30-A MRSA Sec 2671 which addresses the duties and powers of police officers, and Title 25 which regulates training and policies for law enforcement personnel. In respect to training, a law enforcement officer in the State of Maine must complete a 100-hour "pre-service" course at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in order to carry a weapon and make arrests. An additional 14-week (480 hours) course is required if the officer earns over $10,000 per year. The 14-week course must be taken within one year after the pre-service course.
The Dexter Police Department is a municipal department funded by annual appropriations through the Town and staffed with six full-time personnel, and eleven Reserve officers. The Department provides law enforcement coverage for the community on a 24-hour a day basis, seven days a week. The office is manned during the normal business hours, Monday through Friday. Emergency dispatch services are provided by the Penobscot Regional Communications Center (PRCC), in Bangor. The level of law enforcement actions undertaken by the Department annually is relatively high when compared to other communities of similar size. For example during the period July 2000 through June 2001 for the Dexter Police Department there were 578 arrests and summons actions.
B. Observations & Recommendations.
a. Observation: The Dexter Police Department is headed by a Chief thatfunctions as the Department Head and is appointed by the Town Manager and confirmed annually by the Town Council. The Sergeant is designated as the second-in-command and is appointed by the Police Chief. The Chief provides overall leadership for the Department while other officers within the organization are tasked with a variety of other responsibilities. In addition to the Chief and Sergeant there are three other full-time law enforcement officers as well as a full-time administrative support officer who also performs limited duties as a dispatcher. The Department also maintains a cadre of "Reserve Officers" who are used to supplement the force when the need arises. The Animal Control Officer (ACO) also comes under the direct supervision of the Police Chief.
b. Recommendation: The current traditional organizational arrangement functions well and appears to meet the needs of the community.
a. Observation: The Dexter Police Department is currently staffed by five (5) full-time law enforcement officers, a full-time administrative support officer and eleven (11) reserve officers. The administrative position was created through a Federal "Cops More" grant program sponsored by the Department of Justice. As part of the grant the community was committed to retention of the position following the termination of the grant cycle. The administrative position is now funded exclusively through municipal appropriations. All full-time officers, including the administrative officer have completed the Maine Criminal Justice Academy law enforcement "pre-service" course. The regular work-week for full-time Department personnel is 42-hours. Retention of young officers appears to be a continuing problem that the Department has had to contend with for a number of years. This situation has become even more acute during the last year with theincreasing state-wide shortage of law enforcement officers. The primary issues associated with officer retention appear to be compensation, employee benefits and potential for advancement.
In respect to compensation, it was determined that wages paid to the Chief and Sergeant ranked favorably with the compensation paid to other senior law enforcement officers when compared to the state average for communities with populations between 3,500 - 4,999 (see MMA 2001 Salary Survey). However, the wage rate for Patrolman grade was slightly below the state average ($13.47/hr). The Town Council has apparently recognized this situation, and authorized a modest increase in the hourly wage for the Patrolman grade in the FY 2003 municipal budget. The "adjusted" wage for Patrolman grade currently ranges from $11.82 - $12.15 per hour; however, even at this rate the hourly wage for Patrolman remains below the state average (see MMA 2001 Salary Survey). An hourly wage of $9.63 per hour is paid to Reserve Officers and has remained relatively constant for some time. The Department's administrative officer/dispatcher is paid $10.98 per hour which is slightly below the state's average of $11.82 for communities comparable in population to Dexter.
b. Recommendation: During the course of our review of the Dexter Police Department we looked at alternative manning options, including an increased reliance on the Penobscot Sheriff's Department to provide for all or part of Dexter's local law enforcement needs. After consulting with senior officials from the Penobscot Sheriff's Department it became apparent that their potential for increased levels of local involvement would be limited. Any increases in the Sheriff's local role in law enforcement would be tied to a contractual relationship that would not appreciably reduce Dexter's current operating costs and in all probability the Sheriff's Department would be unable to provide the same levels of coverage as currently provided by the Dexter Police Department. Also, the possible creation of an arrangement for establishment of a Sheriff's Department Sub-Station in Dexter was not enthusiastically received. Contrary to what we had anticipated, there appeared to be a strong professional relationship between the Dexter Police Department and the Penobscot Sheriff's Department.
Clearly, retention of young law enforcement officers and improvement of Department morale are serious concerns. The Committee recommends that a concerted effort be made during the next budget cycle to increase compensation for junior officers and patrolmen to a level equivalent to the state average for communities comparable to Dexter. Implementing this recommendation would require that approximately $7,000 be added to Department personnel costs during the next municipal budget cycle. Additionally, every effort should be made to preserve the level of benefits provided for Department personnel, and insure that future full-time personnel hired for the Department are afforded equivalent levels of benefits.
The Committee also recommends that the Town and School District consider the creation of a law enforcement position devoted exclusively to provide a presence within the local school system. The creation of such a position wouldserve to improve security within the school system, provide for enhanced drug awareness training and foster a more favorable relationship between area youth and the local law enforcement establishment. Such an arrangement must be an initiative funded jointly by the Town and School District. The approximate annual cost to fund such a position would be about $40,000 (wages and benefits).
a. Observation: According to the Maine Municipal Association 2001 Fiscal Survey, the average cost of law enforcement operations in Maine for communities with populations ranging from 3,500 to 4,999 was $209,091. Dexter's law enforcement funding level for the same period covered by the MMA report was $311,225, which is substantially higher than comparable communities.
4. Equipment & Facilities.
The Dexter Police Department's budget to support operations for FY 2003 is $313,073 . This represents a small increase of $1,848 over the previous year's funding level, and includes a modest increase in pay ($1.00/hr) for two Patrolman positions. There were no other wage increases or cost of living adjustments for the remaining Department personnel in Dexter's FY 2003 municipal budget. During the course of our review we found it very difficult to make an effectivecomparison between communities and their respective funding for law enforcement. Such factors as community profiles, location, quality of facilities, equipment, crime rates, accounting for personnel costs, and level of reliance on state and county law enforcement assets tended to complicate our efforts to make meaningful comparisons between communities.
b. Recommendation: Although we had difficulty in making a comparative assessment of what it should cost to operate a law enforcement agency in a community the size of Dexter, we concluded that the current level of funding for the Dexter Police Department was justified, and in some cases should be increased.
Future funding increases should focus on enhancements to improve Department morale and retention. Additionally, serious consideration should be given to instituting the recommendation to create some level of law enforcement presence within the local school system. Emphasis should also be placed on supporting contributions to capital reserve accounts in order to adequately support major equipment acquisitions and enhancements to facilities.
a. Observation: The Dexter Police Department moved from their facility in the Morrison Memorial Building to a newly renovated building in late 2000.
5. Scope of Responsibilities.
The new facility is conveniently located, highly visible to the public, and affords significantly improved working conditions when compared to their previous location. When the building was renovated there the ceiling beams were replaced to accommodate the possibility of future growth with the addition of a second floor. The existing roof will require replacement in next several years and a building reserve has been created to fund the project that is currently anticipated to occur in FY2006. Unfortunately, contributions to this reserve fund have been extremely modest during the last two years. Currently approximately $4,000 are spent annually for the operation, upkeep, and maintenance of the facility.
In respect to equipment, the Department operates two fully equipped cruisers, one of which is scheduled for replacement in the summer of 2003. Communications equipment, information technology hardware, and provisions for personal equipment for Department personnel is adequate. During recent yearsthe Department has qualified for several Federal Local Law Enforcement Block Grants (LLEBG) which have been used to help provide for equipment upgrades and replacements.
b. Recommendation: Continue to provide funding necessary to support the operational requirements of the Department. Insure that contributions to capital reserve accounts adequate to meet the long-term needs of the Department.
a. Observation: The character, location and demographics of the community dictate the level of law enforcement needs. In our review of the Dexter Police Department it became apparent that the need to maintain a relatively robust law enforcement agency was driven by both economic and geographical considerations. Even with a declining population the Department remains relatively heavily tasked when comparing operational statistics with previous years. During the review process the Committee was strongly influenced by public concern about the future of Dexter's Police Department and the overwhelming sentiment that no reductions in services should be undertaken. In the current economic environment the Committee fully recognized the cost burden associated with maintaining public safety agencies, but we also concluded that the retention of such service is vital to the future growth and welfare of the community.
6. Other Comments:
b. Recommendation: The Dexter Police Department is adequately manned and funded to support the current needs of the community, however any substantial additions in the levels of responsibility should be supported with increases inmanning and funding. The recommendation to seriously consider expansion of the Department to include a full-time law enforcement presence in the local school system is valid.
The primary task of the Committee was to determine if Dexter's Public Safety organizations were structured, manned, and funded to meet the needs of the community. However, during the review process several issues regarding personnel training and compliance standards were raised. In regard to the Police Department several issues surfaced regarding compliance with federal and state training standards and development of adequate plans to deal with the handling of bio-hazards. As a result of concerns raised by one or more Committee members regarding adequate training for both full-time and Reserve officers, it is recommended that the Police Chief insure that action is undertaken to develop, standardize, and implement training plans, and policies to support and document the standards set forth in Title 25, MRSA Section 2803-B.
The Dexter Police Department is providing an effective level of support to the community. Manning levels and organizational structure are consistent with the level of need and scope of responsibility currently placed on the Department. Personnel retention and morale are issues that need to be addressed by the municipal leadership. It is the consensus of the Committee that any reduction in manning, equipment, or funding for the Department would not be in the best interests of the community.