County willing to work with Brownville on law enforcement moving forward
DOVER-FOXCROFT — The morning after Brownville residents voted to defund the community’s police department after the end of March — at town meeting citizens amended the proposed $167,620 budget line item to $35,767 or the estimated cost for the first three months of the year — county officials discussed the future of law enforcement services in eastern Piscataquis County during a March 21 commissioners’ meeting.
With the vote, Brownville will be relying on the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office for policing as the part of the agency’s existing coverage for the region starting on April 1.
Sheriff John Goggin said his agency is currently short staffed but two officers are enrolled in the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro and area scheduled to graduate in two months. “It’s going to be a juggling act for us until we get a full complement of people back on the road,” he said.
One of the academy graduates will be assigned to eastern Piscataquis County to patrol Brownville and Milo and the surrounding area. The second will be based in the Greenville-area.
Goggin said he hopes Brownville officials consider a contract with the sheriff’s office, to fund some more patrols in the community. “I think we can do the job, I don’t think there’s any problem with that,” he said, saying Brownville does not have the call volume of some other Piscataquis County towns. “It is just going to take resources to be there at the right time.”
“There is a lot of unknowns right now, what I do know is April 1 or maybe sooner the sheriff’s department is going to own Brownville police,” Goggin said.
County Manager Tom Lizotte said a vote to defund the police department does not dissolve the agency, this action would need to be done by another vote such as at a special town meeting. He said Brownville officials still need to address the community’s mutual aid agreement with Milo, the contact of Chief Seth Burnes and other matters.
“I think what they are going to do now is plan on the sheriff’s patrol like any community in the county,” Lizotte said.
The county manager, who attended the annual meeting to answer questions and said he was not there to persuade voters either way, said Brownville residents seemed pleased by the impending addition of a county officer. “They fully understand that deputy is not going to be dedicated eight hours a day to Brownville but to the region,” he said.
“How many hours do you need, this gives us an opportunity to judge that,” Lizotte said. “The pledge we have made to that community is we are always willing to open a conversation with their selectmen and see what their needs are.”’
“I think the key to the whole thing is making those people happy in response time,” Goggin said.
“Clearly the people there were will aware the response time would be different than what they have now,” Lizotte said.
He said representatives from communities around the region with their own police departments have been meeting with county officials as part of a law enforcement task force as the various agencies are all coping with issues such as manpower shortages and budgets. “We need to think about doing things a little differently than in the past,” Lizotte said.
In other business, Lizotte said he spoke with Rep. Norm Higgins (R-Dover-Foxcroft) the evening before as Higgins stopped by annual town meetings in both Brownville and Atkinson.
Higgins told the county manager that for the time being Atkinson is focusing on withdrawing from SAD 41 and looking to join RSU 68/Foxcroft Academy. “The actual deorganization may be put on hold until next year after the school district is resolved,” Lizotte said.
He said a bill for Atkinson’s deorganization will likely not be submitted this year.