SKOWHEGAN — Donald Bolduc, 48, a career law enforcement officer, was willing to leave his job as police chief in Millinocket to be a patrol officer in Skowhegan.
Bolduc applied for the job this past summer and was ready to start work in Skowhegan, a town with twice the population of Millinocket. He would go from making $55,000 a year as police chief in Millinocket, to $15.45 an hour as a patrol officer in Skowhegan.
Then Skowhegan Deputy Chief Dan Summers announced he was leaving to take the police chief’s job in Lincoln.
That’s when Bolduc, married with two grown sons, became Skowhegan’s new deputy police chief, at a starting annual salary of $52,000.
“The paper mill is completely closed in Millinocket,” Bolduc said of the town, which dropped in population from 8,600 in the late 1990s to 4,300 this year. “The effect was devastating — it was very, very significant. At one time there were 11 paper machines working.”
Neighboring East Millinocket has one paper machine still running right now, he said, but the effect of the shut down in Millinocket struck every corner of the local economy.
When Bolduc started in Millinocket, the police department had 14 full-time police officers, including the chief, a captain and a detective. Now there are six.
Skowhegan has a population of about 9,000 with a 15-person police department, including Chief Ted Blais.
Bolduc said when all the paper machines were running, the Millinocket had the highest paid police department in the state. Then the bottom fell out.
Bolduc said when the paper machines shut down, town government started cutting municipal spending — including salaries — even considering combining regional police and fire departments.
“One of the reasons I’ve left Millinocket is the pay and the benefits — the reduction in force and what should be there and what isn’t there,” he said. “They were preparing for years. They knew the mills were eventually going to close, so even before the mills closed they began negotiating and were not very proactive in their pay scales. They’ve been cutting services significantly in the last two years.”
The tax rate in Millinocket is $29.95 for every $1,000 in property valuation. Skowhegan’s tax rate is $16.40.
Bolduc was hired as a reserve officer and dispatcher for the Millinocket Police Department in 1989 after working as a security guard at the Great Northern Paper Co. mill.
He was hired full time and finished training at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in 1991. He rose through the ranks and was promoted to police chief in 2004.
Bolduc said he also was attracted to Skowhegan because the town works with the Maine State Retirement System, just like Millinocket does, so he can continue building benefits toward his retirement.
Blais said when Bolduc applied to be a patrol officer, he and the Skowhegan Board of Selectmen knew they were getting a qualified candidate with 24 years of law enforcement experience.
“So when (Summers) said he was leaving, we started getting him going right away,” Blais said. “We then had to advertise internally and externally for a deputy chief and he was hired. It’s very busy here in Skowhegan.”
Blais said as the No. 2 guy at the department, Bolduc will help to put together the department’s annual budget, handle personnel matters and be the fact-finder during major police investigations.
Doug Harlow — 612-2367