Gardiner Police Officer Michael Moody drives on River Road looking for a reported fire on a utility pole on Thursday in South Gardiner. Moody is one of the officers who will get a raise this year after city officials and the police union reached an agreement on a new contract. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

GARDINER — City officials and the Gardiner Police Officers Association have reached an agreement that will increase salaries for police officers an average of 16%.

In addition to pay increases, the new contract streamlines the steps at which pay increases occur and builds in a 3% cost-of-living increase in the second and third years of the contract for both patrol officers and sergeants.

“Pay was a big thing,” Gardiner Police Sgt. Alonzo Connor, who served on the negotiating team and is the local president of the union, said. “We’re trying to get the staffing to par, and I think with this new contract we will certainly see some new applicants come through.”

Andrew Carlton, Gardiner city manager, said city officials had surveyed what comparable police departments were paying across the region.

“We realized we needed to do better, and so we did,” Carlton said Thursday.

Carlton said the city had two goals when negotiating the contract. One was recruitment, and the other was retention of existing police officers.


He characterized the negotiations as among the most successful he has participated in; he came to the Gardiner city manager position after years in school district administration.

“We have a fantastic core of officers here that we don’t want to lose,” he said. “Retaining them is just as important as recruiting new officers.”

Gardiner Mayor Patricia Hart said the process was mutually respectful, which she appreciated.

“Our residents and businesses always speak highly of the police department,” Hart said. “They want these services, they value these services, so we thought it was an important investment in the city. And as the city manager said, it’s an important recruiting and retention opportunity.”

William McKinley, an attorney with Troubh Heisler in Scarborough, represented the Gardiner Police Officers Association in the negotiations.

“This negotiation was really wonderful,” McKinley said. “They’re not all that easy. There’s a spectrum and this was on the very, very high end of the spectrum on the level of cooperation on how well it went.”


Like other police agencies in the state, the Gardiner Police Department has struggled to fill vacancies. In 2021, it renewed its practice from several years before of offering signing bonuses to new recruits, as other cities and counties were doing at the time.

Even so, the department has been operating with vacancies for months as it has searched for applicants to fill its ranks.

“It’s a very difficult time in this industry,” said McKinley, whose firm represents about 2,000 law enforcement officers in departments across Maine. “There are huge recruitment and retention issues. In Maine, they are gargantuan at this point.”

He said the contract reflects the city’s need to be competitive to keep current officers and to attract good recruits.

In the first year of the contract, starting pay for patrol officers is $26 an hour, with increases at the first, third, fifth, seventh and tenth years, when pay tops out at $37.75. For sergeants, the pay level starts at $37.31 and tops out at $41.53.

Gardiner Police Chief Todd Pilsbury said he expects the contract will help fill vacancies in the department, which currently has two openings.

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