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Gorham looks to contract police, dispatch with City of Berlin

Union Leader Correspondent

October 22. 2017 10:34PM
Gorham Town Hall does multiple duties: It acts as the headquarters of the Gorham Police Department. The future of the department is uncertain as town officials consider contracting police coverage and dispatch services with the city of Berlin. (JOHN KOZIOL/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

GORHAM — A proposal to contract police coverage and dispatch with the city of Berlin might save Gorham about $100,000, but it could also mean the loss of several current jobs.

At Town Meeting this year, Gorham voters directed the town to explore the feasibility of the City That Trees Built providing both services and subsequently, Gorham Police Chief PJ Cyr and Peter Morency, his Berlin counterpart, have worked on it for several months.

Morency presented the plan to the Gorham Board of Selectmen on Sept. 18 and again during a public hearing on Oct. 16.

Several dozen citizens attended that hearing, said Gorham Town Manager Robin Frost, and it was clear that the consensus was not to outsource police duties.

Morency last month told the Gorham selectmen that regionalization is a growing trend in New Hampshire and that under a four-year contract with Gorham, the town could cumulatively see its police/dispatch costs go down about $100,000.

In addition to those savings, he said Gorham would have access to Berlin’s drug investigator; polygraph examiner; and accident-reconstruction and records-management services; and that the town of Gorham would have an advisory seat on the Berlin Police Commission.

Frost said if the contract with Berlin is accepted, the Berlin Police Department would hire five new officers and also fund two-and-a-half dispatcher positions; Berlin officials, she noted, have told the town that current Gorham police officers would be welcome to apply.

The Gorham Police Department now has seven full-time officers, including Cyr, and four full-time and one part-time dispatcher. In total, the annual budget for both is about $900,000, said Frost, clarifying that the contracted rate could lower that expense by 10 percent to 15 percent.

Cyr has previously pointed out to selectmen that the police Department has difficulty retaining officers, one of whom is poised to go work in Berlin.

The selectmen will next meet Oct. 30, and “they will discuss it and whether the proposal is the right fit for the town,” said Frost, or whether some other type of “collaborative service” might be better.

“We’re both communities with high tax rates,” said Frost, so it makes sense that Gorham and its neighbor to the north to find cost savings where possible. “We’re still working with them (the city of Berlin) and will continue to,” she said.

Public Safety Gorham Local and County Government

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