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Mouchette deserves raise, and he should stay on as Middletown police chief: Editorial

Posted 7/11/17

We urge Middletown Borough Council to pay interim Police Chief George Mouchette a reasonable salary to keep him on permanently.

Since coming on in early January, our impression is that he has done …

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Mouchette deserves raise, and he should stay on as Middletown police chief: Editorial

Posted

We urge Middletown Borough Council to pay interim Police Chief George Mouchette a reasonable salary to keep him on permanently.

Since coming on in early January, our impression is that he has done a very solid job under trying circumstance to improve a department that needs cohesion and continuity.

There has simply been too much turnover and uncertainty with the chief position in the last five years to start all over again when an extremely qualified candidate already has the job.

It would make little sense to boot him out of the position over money, even if that amounts to $10,000 or $20,000 above what the borough has budgeted for the position.

We realize that amount is not small change. However, it is but a tiny percentage of the overall borough budget, and it would be money well-spent.

Mouchette currently makes $60,000 a year with no benefits or 401(k). That is a steal, so to speak, for the borough. He took the job knowing that talks with Lower Swatara Township over regionalization of the departments or a contract for services were in the works, which might render the chief’s job moot.

But those talks are over.

The borough budgeted $108,542 for salary and benefits of a police chief in 2017, Middletown Finance Director Kevin Hartman told the Press & Journal. Following a private industry standard of 35 percent for benefits would mean that the borough budgeted $70,553 for the salary of the chief.

That’s simply not enough. We are not sure why so little was budgeted when former Chief John Bey was making more than $80,000 in salary alone when he left in late December. Even more curious is that Keith Reismiller was making about $95,000 a year when he stepped down as chief in 2012, and his replacement was being paid the same until he left after four months.

Going backward for the salary of the most important full-time borough position simply doesn’t make sense.

It’s possible so little was budgeted for the chief position in 2017 because the borough knew there would be an interim chief or the position would be open for some amount of time, and they were being financially conservative. But for 2018, that must change.

Also, consider this: If $108,542 was budgeted for the position, that would mean about $54,000 for six months of the year — half of what is budgeted. Mouchette is making $60,000 a year, so let’s assume for the first six months he’s made $30,000 — and that would be the total expenditures since he does not have benefits. That’s a savings of $24,000 to the borough right off the bat.

Let’s face it, Mouchette is an exemplary candidate for the job who fell into the lap of the borough. He is a retired New York Police Department lead detective who retired from the force after more than 20 years when his wife took a job with The Hershey Co. several years ago. 

If the borough decides it can’t pay Mouchette what he is worth, what candidate could come along who would be more qualified? We just don’t see it.

Despite his big-city background, he has never given us the impression he feels like he’s a big fish in a small pond. Just the opposite. He has told us that here, he can directly impact people’s lives and make them better.

“Every Middletown citizen, their safety is my responsibility,” Mouchette said. “It makes me feel good when I see moms bringing kids to school and the kids are safe because we are there. I enjoy working with the community and having a direct influence on people’s lives for the better.”

Mouchette has the support of Mayor James H. Curry III and the borough council, according to that body’s president, Damon Suglia. He already knows what the job entails. He has been doing it for more than six months. The revolving door must stop. Curry has worked with four chiefs — including Mouchette — since becoming mayor in January 2014.

This is a perfect situation to hire a superior chief who could serve for years. A salary in the $95,000 range, with some benefits package, doesn’t seem out of line to us.

Should the borough pay Mouchette an outlandish amount? Of course not. But he is well worth a reasonable raise.

Get it done.

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