FALMOUTH — Officials say eliminating a position within the police department could put a dent in law enforcement investigations.

Included among four positions cut in town due to the pandemic and a projected revenue decrease is one of two new police officers, which, according to Police Chief John Kilbride, now places a detective on patrol and has taken time away from investigative follow-up work. Detectives are essential in solving crimes ranging from acts of violence to criminal mischief and vandalism, Kilbride said, and staff have helped Falmouth’s high case clearance rate.

The position, which was empty but about to be filled, will save about $97,000, including benefits.

“We had 20 full-time personnel, including sworn personnel, now there is 19, including me and the command staff, so we have to shuffle people around, run minimal coverage at times with two officers opposed to three,” Kilbride said. 

With the shortage, the department sometimes has to call “a detective (to patrol) every now and then to cover,”  Kilbride said. 

According to Kilbride, the detectives do the main follow up to criminal investigations ranging from following leads to working in the courts.

The department has two detectives which split the work week, Kilbride said. If a detective is on patrol, there is no detective working at that time.

“We have one of the highest clearance rates (for cases) in Cumberland County because of our detectives,” Kilbride said. “We average about 52% clearance, the average is 35% for law enforcement (according to the Maine Department of Public Safety). We spend a lot of time working cases to get resolution, that’s important, now you are trying to balance that and cover the road, putting cases on hold.”

At the least, Kilbride said, the loss of the position means more overtime for officers and shuffling roles. In the meantime, the department is still looking to fill the other vacancy, which will help, but hopes future budgets allow another officer to be hired, Kilbride said.

Also eliminated were an administrative assistant, an engineering technician and a parks maintenance job, saving a total of about $300,000. The town also deferred buying a new fire truck, for a savings of  about $400,000, according to Fire Chief Howard Rice.

While the cuts made in April have added to workloads across other departments as well, officials say it was a good move.

“We are managing it, people are doing more, and you know, no one is complaining; they understand it and it’s unknown what next year will bring,” Kilbride said. “I think the leadership of the town is on the right path.” 

Town revenues dropped due to the coronavirus, according to Town Finance Director Pete McHugh.

“The biggest revenue miss last year (for fiscal year 2020) was the recreation fund revenue, where childcare revenue and spring activity revenues came in $236,000 short of our normal revenue for that time period (at about $850,000),” McHugh said. ” The resulting reduction in activities also reduced expenditures so that the recreation department overall annual net revenue miss was $45,000.”

“Due to the federal action to reduce interest rates, most of our town investments in government securities and CDs with rates in the 2%-3% range are now being called and replaced with rates in the .5% – .9% range.  This will reduce our investment income by $150,000-$200,000 in FY21 versus FY20 (at $578,000).”

According to the 2019 Town Report, Falmouth invested $14.75 million last year.

A new park maintenance person, which would have cost about $35,000, was needed due to the increased amount of public space, according to Town Manager Nathan Poore. The employee would have started Jan. 1.

There are two workers who now maintain all town parks and public land, after a third position was cut in 2009. Since then, Poore said, 600 acres of public space has been added and the workload has grown enough to reinstate a third person.

The engineering technician, which would have cost $86,000, would have helped manage both town- and state-funded infrastructure projects.

“To manage all of those projects with the staff we had was not sustainable. We put that position in a few years ago, but never filled it,” Poore said. “We made a commitment to fill it because of the long list of town and state projects we need to coordinate with.”

The executive assistant role, about $80,000, would work in the town manager’s office handling the town council agendas, scheduling and also help with communications within town departments.

The work has fallen on Poore, Assistant Town Manager Amy Lamontagne and administrative analyst Marguerite Fleming. 

“Those staff were already working a lot of hours and tasks,” Poore said. “One of the bigger tasks is helping to administer and build council agendas, and website work, all done by (Fleming). We brought her into the role though for policy development, so it would allow her to work on that.”

While the three have been able to absorb the work, Poore said, it’s added on to the amount of work they’ve already taken on.

The Fire Department pushed off buying a new tank truck, Rice said, saving about $400,000. The new one would have replaced a 28-year-old truck.

“When COVID-19 first hit we went to the town and offered it up, I knew that one cut is so much, so we offered that week one, and we wanted to do our part,” Rice said. “We’d like a new tank truck, there’s been a lot of advancements made in those 28 years, but we’ll be fine.”

Falmouth is far from alone in instituting cuts to is personnel in a bid to save money. Westbrook has a city-wide hiring freeze, Windham has seven positions that will remain unfilled and Auburn has cut $200,000 in positions.

“This week, the Maine Municipal Association released projections anticipating a combined $146 million in lost revenue from Maine’s cities and towns by the end of this year alone,” U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in a prepared release last week. “We know that the revenues are going to take a while to recover and are going to affect next year as well. This builds on Maine’s Revenue Forecasting Committee, which expects a $1.4 billion state budget shortfall from lost sales and income tax revenues over the next three years.”

 

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