FARMINGTON — With the addition this year of a new police station and more competitive wages for officers, Farmington Police Chief Jack Peck hopes the town’s police department will end its constant struggle to hire and retain officers.

A $490,000 renovation project at the town’s new police station is expected to be finished next month, when the police department will move out of its cramped space in the town’s municipal building.

Meanwhile, most of the police department’s employees have received 5 percent raises in wages based on what other comparable law enforcement agencies offer.

“I’m hoping between (the wages) and better working conditions that we can attract potential employees in the future and retain officers,” Peck said Friday.

There has been a revolving door in the past for some of the officers hired by the department, which has not been fully staffed at 14 full-time positions since December of 2009, according to Peck.

Officers in most cases left to take better-paying jobs at other law enforcement agencies, Peck said, adding the space shortage at the Farmington police station didn’t help matters.

Peck believes the new station will help keep employees’ morale up and prevent young officers from looking for other places to work. He hired a new police officer last week and is in the process of hiring two more, which would bring the department to full staffing.

Selectmen approved the raises after a wage study showed the police department in Farmington paid 6 percent less than law enforcement agencies with comparable features, according to Town Manager Richard Davis.

The wage increases were negotiated with union officials representing most of the police department employees, Davis said. The 5 percent raise is based on a 2 percent raise negotiated by the union, which is in addition to the 3 percent raises awarded to all other town employees for the 2012 fiscal year, he said.

There was a 2 percent raise included in the contract that was paid retroactively for the 2011 fiscal year, according to town budget figures.

The 5 percent raise in 2012 brings a new patrolman’s pay up to $31,588, the budget figures show.

Peck and Deputy Chief Shane Cote are the only members of the department who didn’t get the 5 percent raises. They received the 3 percent raises this year for non-union employees, bringing Peck’s salary to $61,551 and Cote’s to $51,029, budget figures show.

Town officials have also recently addressed a request to build a garage at the new police station site. Peck is asking for $75,000 to cover the estimated project costs, calling it a necessity to provide a secure location to store police vehicles, certain evidence and impounded vehicles.

Voters will consider passing the request at the annual town meeting scheduled for Monday, March 19. Selectmen want to fund the garage project over three years, setting aside $25,000 annually. The budget committee wants to include the entire $75,000 in the budget being decided at next month’s meeting.

Residents last year overwhelming approved the initial renovation project at the 116 Franklin Ave. building that will become the town’s new police station. Franklin Memorial Hospital donated the 6,000-square-foot building to the town. It will replace the police department’s 1,500-square-foot space in the municipal building on Farmington Falls Road.

David Robinson — 861-9287

[email protected]

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