Task force will examine law enforcement throughout the county
DOVER-FOXCROFT — A task force will look at law enforcement needs and processes, such as defining patrol staff recruitment, coverage, mutual aid, communication, use of vehicles and contracts with towns, across the region after such a group was authorized to start in early 2017 by the county commissioners during a Nov. 15 meeting.
Interim County Manager Tom Lizotte said during the final meeting of the county budget advisory committee in late October the group unanimously passed a motion to establish a countywide task force of seven to 12 members with equal representation of geography, citizens, town managers and police departments to address law enforcement needs and processes.
“The intent was how do we strengthen law enforcement offered to our communities, how do you make that happen?,” Lizotte said, as presently there is the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office and police departments in Brownville, Dover-Foxcroft, Greenville and Milo in addition to the Maine State Police and Warden Service.
“No. 1 I think it’s important to build on the good that happens,” said Jane Conroy of the budget advisory committee, who made the motion last month to establish the task force. She said at the very least the group could address residents’ questions on how law enforcement services are provided.
Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Bob Young said he and Sheriff John Goggin have discussed the matter at length and the department would be willing to take part in any countywide discussions.
“Their prime directive is to serve people that don’t have a municipal department,” Lizotte said about the sheriff’s office.
Commissioner Jim White said counties are mandated to elect a sheriff, but municipalities are not required to have their own police departments.
“We all really have the same mission, we are trying to enforce the law,” Dover-Foxcroft Town Manager Jack Clukey said.
“To me the thing is we have a system that’s fairer to all towns,” Commissioners Chair Fred Trask said. “The biggest reason for us outside is the response time.” He said Milo has its own police department as a result of the sheriff’s office being located in Dover-Foxcroft, with many of the department personnel residing in Guilford and Sangerville.
“I think the nature of the beast is cops go where the action is and for us that’s Guilford and Sangerville,” Young said. “It is possible to have cheaper and more efficient law enforcement,” he said, saying over the years changes to law enforcement providers in the county have been looked at but in the end were not made.
A quick estimate put various police costs at $140,000 annually for Brownville, $200,000 for Greenville and Milo, nearly $500,000 in Dover-Foxcroft and $800,000 at the county level.
Lizotte said any new collaborations “could ultimately succeed if the county and the towns see themselves as the partners and all of that is possible.”
Trask said the communities are all struggling to deliver the same services with declining populations and revenues. “People should be more aware of what’s currently happening,” he said. “It looks like we are going to take the first steps here and at least think about it.”
“As Tom said it isn’t about a power grab, it’s about efficiency and right now it isn’t very efficient,” White said.
In other business, Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Tom Capraro said his office has now started handling E-911 addressing for the county with agency staff having begun their training.
“We already have one address that’s complete, one that’s pending and I just got another call the other day so it seems to be working,” he said.
“We are ready for the county budget hearing, which is on the 28th,” Lizotte said in his report. The annual hearing on the county and unorganized territory budgets will be Monday, Nov. 28 at 7 p.m. at the commissioners’ chambers in the Peaks House at 163 East Main Street.