Bethel voters OK switch to county police coverage
This time the message was loud and clear: “Bring on the deputies.”
By a vote of 526 to 403 Tuesday, Bethel voters authorized town selectmen to contract with the Oxford County Sheriff's Department for police coverage, at a projected cost of $295,000 for each of the next three years.
Receiving the minority of votes was an alternative option, which called for retaining and beefing up the current Police Department, at a projected annual cost of $453,794.
The voters' decision effectively puts an end to the town's own four-decades-old department.
The switchover is expected to take place July 1.
“The voters have made their decision, and I respect that,” Lt. S. R. White said the following morning. “I'm going to be the last full-time police officer in the Bethel PD – It's kind of neat … in a bad way.”
“I'm very disappointed,” White said. “I was hoping that this department would be expanded. And I'm worried about the families of the officers who will be unemployed in the very near future.
“But my congratulations go out to the Sheriff's Department for getting the contract, and I appreciate all the support we've had from the people who wanted this department to stay.”
Town Manager Jim Doar said Wednesday that the selectmen were expected to discuss details of the transition to county coverage that evening, following the conclusion of Bethel's annual Town Meeting.
In other voting Tuesday, Bethel residents joined those in other SAD 44 towns, in approving (1210-675) a $9.2 million school-district budget for the coming year. They also agreed to retain a referendum process for budget approval.
Bethel also re-elected incumbent selectmen Don Bennett and Stan Howe to three-year terms, with Bennett garnering 667 votes and Howe 621. Unsuccessful challenger Darren Tripp (formerly chief of the Bethel Police Department) received 318 votes.
Incumbent assessors Howe and David Luxton were re-elected without opposition.
Also re-elected were incumbent SAD 44 directors Elaine Cross (671 votes) and Lynn Arizzi (446). Challenger Katherine Botica received 254 votes.
Thirty-five remaining articles were to go to town voters Wednesday evening (following press time for this week's Citizen). The results of that meeting will be summarized by midday Thursday on our homepage: bethelcitizen.com.