WILTON — The Wilton Select Board on Tuesday, July 12, voted 3-2 to allocate American Rescue Plan Act funds as hazard pay stipends for the town’s police department.

The stipends will offer each officer $160-200 a week, totaling $54,560, according to Chair David Leavitt.

Police Chief Heidi Wilcox was supposed to receive $300 a week, but Leavitt said in an interview she declined the stipend following the meeting.

Previously the ARPA funds allocated toward these stipends would have been $73,160.

The hazard pay is part of an effort to help retain the town’s police officers amid regional, statewide and nationwide officer shortages.

The Wilton Police Department is currently down one officer, while two are at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy for training, leaving temporary gaps.


Additionally, the stipends are a method to compensate officers for their hazardous responsibilities, as Wilcox said crime and violence have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The motion was raised by Selectperson Tiffany Maiuri, who months ago suggested the idea of hazard pay for officers in an effort to stop officers from leaving the department.

The idea first was tabled in order to wait for the Town of Farmington to approve their police department budget at the 2022 town meeting so they could compare rates and come up with a competitive figure.

That Farmington meeting was repeatedly delayed due to disputes about the overall budget, and by the time it was passed, former Selectperson Tom Saviello asked that the motion be tabled until he retired from the board and was replaced by new Selectperson Mike Wells – who began his tenure Tuesday night.

During discussion on the motion, Maiuri said the stipends brought Wilton up to 95% of Farmington’s rates. Additionally, she said, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office recently gave their officers a 15% raise.

“If you want to keep businesses, want to make sure that we keep our taxes down and low, we need good public safety,” Maiuri said. “We have a great department. They’re not fully staffed yet.”


Maiuri asked Wilcox, who was present at the meeting, how the crime rates are looking in Wilton, have they gotten better.

“No, things are not better and we’re still not full staffed – we haven’t been fully staffed for quite some time now and we have no prospects,” Wilcox responded.

She explained that with Farmington’s new pay rate, three of five openings have recently been filled.

“It’s a problem in the area, there are no candidates. Some of the candidates we’ve picked have not met our standards. We have not lowered our standards, we cannot lower our standards,” Wilcox said. “It’s tricky for all of our officers, and to keep the guys that we have is crucial to this town.”

She said the Wilton Police Department is in great need of criminal investigators with calls to the department increasing.

“It takes hours, it takes dedication, and takes time to focus on that if you want successful prosecution of those cases,” she said. “Because we follow through those criminal investigations, we get the prosecution but in order to have that you have to have the resources.”


There was a good deal of debate on the hazard pay stipends following Maiuri’s presentation.

Leavitt views the stipends as a “contract issue” in order to be “competitive” with Farmington. But, he said, you’ve only looked at Farmington. Towns like Jay – which he believes is “demographically more aligned” with Wilton – just underwent contract negotiations for their police department and they are still paying less than Wilton does now, he said.

“It’s a kind of play on words to say it’s a public-safety hazard pay when it’s really a contract-adjustment pay,” Leavitt said.

He also brought up the ARPA hazard payments the town approved in December, where every town employee received a one-time bonus totaling $54,750.

“It was different levels of hazard pay based on, relative to their job assignments,” Leavitt said. “When you came to us with this, it was going toe to toe with Farmington because we need to be competitive so that we don’t lose officers in the department.

“And I don’t want to lose police officers to Farmington, but let’s have it in the right context.”


He viewed competitive pay and contract-adjustment pay as different than hazard pay. He said that these payments should be held off as contract negotiations will take place in the coming months.

“I think we’re splitting hairs,” Maiuri responded. “I believe that the reason that the increases have gone up is because of the recognition that it is becoming a much more hazardous job.”

“Is it more hazardous right now?” Maiuri then asked Chief Wilcox.

Wilcox responded that though “the job is always hazardous,” domestic violence rates are up and the department is receiving more calls and reports of crimes against people.

“There is an escalation of violence,” she said.

She later said that Wilton’s “clearance rate,” or the rate of crimes with charges made versus the total number of crimes recorded, was 45% this year.


Selectperson Keith Swett agreed with Maiuri on the importance of retaining police officers, but had concerns about this method of stipends.

“I don’t argue with the value of the police department. But I would argue the value of the other employees in the town of Wilton,” Swett said. This is the first time the town has focused pay increases toward one isolated department, he said.

Swett added that if the town is going to compare police officer rates with Farmington, they should be looking at comparing pay rates in every department.

Wells said he views the increase in violence and necessity for stipends as a direct result of the pandemic.

“We’re in a different realm right now … and we can’t personally sit on the sidelines and say, ‘it’ll take care of itself.'” Wells said. “For me, it’s I want a strong police force and I want them well paid.”

“I don’t think that is in debate,” Leavitt responded. But we’ve never compared rates with just one town, we’ve always looked regionally and we’re paying more than other surrounding areas, he said.

Selectperson Phil Hilton also echoed what Maiuri and Wells said about the need for hazard pay stipends.

It’s “more complicated” of an issue than just focusing on the idea of competitive pay rates versus hazard pay, he said. “It’s not black and white.”

The vote finally passed with Maiuri, Hilton and Wells voting yes; Swett and Leavitt voting no.

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