SKOWHEGAN — Selectmen on Tuesday night approved hiring a full time administrative assistant for the Police Department as part of the police chief’s plan to restructure the department. The 5-0 vote brings the position from a part-time job to a full-time job with benefits.

The added 5 1/2 hours per week for the assistant means about $3,300 more per year, but still comes within the Police Department budget. The estimated $12,000 to $18,000 in benefits would be an increase, but could be considered a “wash” or a spending swap with other changes in Police Chief Don Bolduc’s restructuring, selectmen agreed.

The department has not had a full time secretary or administrative assistant since 2007. The position will be non-union job with hourly pay, not a set salary.

Bolduc said making the job of the administrative assistant — currently Erin Brown — full-time will eliminate turnover in the front office.

“It will be a huge asset to this department,” he said, adding that he gives that job top priority.

Bolduc said he will be able to do his job better with a full-time administrative assistant in place. He said not having someone at the office window during regular business hours forces additional work for police officers and himself and more work for town employees upstairs in the municipal offices who sometimes are forced to take complaints.

The Police Department’s fiscal year 2015-16 operational budget is $1,283,870.

Other pending changes in the department include eliminating the position of deputy police chief and adding a day sergeant and re-instituting a detective sergeant. A position of acting sergeant could be removed in the future if the decision is made to hire a deputy chief, Bolduc said.

Bolduc also is proposing a “utility position” and a “swing shift” detective.

“We’re trying to be more proactive on the street, so when we invest in employees, we recruit them and we’re trying to retain them,” Bolduc said. “In doing so, yes, you spend more money up front, but in the long run it’s an investment in the future. In the past, unfortunately, we’ve recruited young people and they get all kinds of great experience and training and then they leave. In the long run, it’s more expensive to operate this way.”

Selectmen’s only concerns Tuesday night included the lack of a No. 2 person — a deputy chief — and what it would mean if a disciplinary matter were to arise. Without the deputy chief — a buffer — the other top officers will be union members.

Bolduc said he personally would take over such a matter if one were to pose a roadblock in coming to a solution, or he would call in an outside arbitrator if necessary.

Chairman Donald Skillings noted that the board “has very little to say” about the internal structure of the Police Department as long as the changes come within the department’s budget approved by voters at the Town Meeting.

The utility officer — possibly a detective — will work 10-hour shifts Wednesday through Saturday, starting in the early afternoon and working into the evening shift to assist the day shift and night shift during peak hours of activity, Bolduc said.

“This would increase the availability of an investigator immediately responding to incidents without a call-out,” Bolduc said. He said it will encourage a team approach between patrol officers and detectives.

The swing shift detective will be expected to work in uniform as well as plain clothes, depending on the assignment, he said. He or she will work four 10-hours shifts.

Costwise, Bolduc said the restructuring with a detective sergeant and an additional sergeant will be close to the same cost as the deputy chief’s pay.

In eliminating the position of deputy chief, Bolduc said he will take on some of the duties, but he also will delegate the majority of the responsibilities to the sergeants, the detective sergeant and possibly the detectives.

The department will retain a detective assigned to the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, but the state will reimburse that cost.

“It is a great thing for Skowhegan and the Skowhegan Police Department to have someone with MDEA,” he said.

The day sergeant will supervise and assist the day shift of police officers, assign patrol tasks to “encourage self-initiated activity,” Bolduc said in his proposal to selectmen. The day sergeant also would make sure that no fewer than two patrol officers will be working the road at any given time.

The detective sergeant will be taking on a new and important role in Bolduc’s restructuring of the department, with a focus on investigating crimes and drug activity, he said. Many of the tasks assigned to the detective sergeant, including supervising the detectives, would have fallen on the deputy chief.

Bolduc, who was deputy chief under Police Chief Ted Blais, took over the top spot in August after Blais unexpectedly resigned. Bolduc said some of the restructuring was begun under Blais, and it started showing results; but the department lost two officers who went to other departments to work, which created open spots in the patrol rotation.

He said he is in the process of hiring a patrol officer and will add one more after the first one is in place. The department is still two officers short of a full compliment of 15 officers, including the chief.

Bolduc, 51, has been with the department since 2013, when he left the police chief position in Millinocket to be a patrol officer in Skowhegan. In August 2013, he became deputy chief when Dan Summers left to become chief in Lincoln.

On July 27, he become interim chief when Blais, 54, resigned. Blais had been chief since June 2013, replacing Michael Emmons.

Starting salary for Bolduc was $65,520.

Leading up to Tuesday night’s meeting, Bolduc said after he took over in August, he considered realigning certain positions within the department, hoping to improve police effectiveness by focusing on day-to-day criminal and drug activity in Skowhegan, particularly in late afternoon and early evening.

Bolduc said he also wants to interest the Board of Selectmen in making police officers’ salaries and benefits more competitive so they don’t leave for better-paying jobs elsewhere.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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