Madawaska police, ambulance departments seek budget increases

2 weeks ago

MADAWASKA, Maine – Madawaska’s police and ambulance departments are each seeking a roughly $90,000 increase this year, according to draft budgets presented to officials on Tuesday, April 2.

Madawaska Police Chief Jamie Pelletier and Madawaska Ambulance Director Eric Cyr each discussed their proposed budgets and explained why the increases are needed.

The most significant increase proposed for the police department is an additional $63,079 for salaries and wages. Pelletier said this number is tentative, as salary increases are still under negotiation.

If the increase is approved, it would bring last year’s approved total of $450,491 for salaries up to $513,570. Other significant increases include $17,107 for retirement, $13,500 for travel and training, and $7,100 for clothing and safety equipment.

The budget also saw decreases over last year, the most noteworthy being health insurance, which went down by $29,453 over the previous budget year. 

Pelletier said the department has six full-time and three reserve officers. There is one vacancy for a reserve officer.

The travel and training increase from $15,000 to $28,500 would allow two officers to undergo training at the academy, which is required at the end of the first year of employment.

Pelletier said that the line for fuel, which is currently at $13,500 with no increase, may have to go up. He said there are times where two police cars are out at the same time, as one will be patrolling and another will be on a detail. He said he has asked officers to double up in one vehicle, when possible, to save on fuel. 

The department has a 2019 Dodge Charger with 120,000 miles, a 2021 Dodge Durango with 70,000 miles. Pelletier said they have an unmarked Ford Taurus with 140,000 miles, however it will need to be retired this year as it will not be able to pass inspection.

Selectman Jason Boucher suggested that the town seek out discounted fuel plans for police vehicles to see if there are any ways for police to save money on gas.

Without the suggested increase in the fuel line, the draft budget shows an overall increase of $88,983 in expenses for the police department. 

The draft budget for the ambulance department shows an overall increase of $92,707. LIke the police budget, the largest proposed increase is for an additional $69,109 for salaries and wages. The employee benefits line also contains a $21,676 increase over the previous year, with $8,845 of this being an addition to retirement benefits and $7,543 of this being for additional health insurance.

The proposed operating expense budget is $78 less than last year. The only other increase is an additional $2,000 under supplies, $1,500 of which is for oxygen. Cyr said oxygen prices have gone up significantly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year’s budget for oxygen was $2,500, and the year before that it was $1,699. This year, he said they’re expecting to spend $4,000 altogether.

The line for fuel is $27,500, the same as last year. The year before that, however, it was $15,738. When asked why it jumped up so significantly, Cyr said it is because they were running two diesel ambulances at the time, which were far less expensive than gas vehicles.

He said they have three vehicles in service, a 2018 ambulance with 37,000 miles, a 2021 ambulance with 51,000 miles, and a 2023 ambulance with 15,000 miles.

Finance committee member Ricky Nadeau asked about extra money spent in the repair and maintenance line for the current budget year, with $10,000 approved, however $16,487 is projected to be spent by June 30 of this year.

Cyr said this was because the 2018 ambulance had a busted exhaust header, which required costly repairs.

The department projects that it will see roughly $640,000 in revenues for the current budget year.