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Proposed renovations would provide more space for district attorney office staff

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DOVER-FOXCROFT — With four employees working in two rooms making for cramped quarters, staff of the district attorney’s office have been looking at possible ways to have more space at their location on the first floor of the Piscataquis County Courthouse.

One possibility could be to switch ownership of a DA office storage closet for the use of a utility area currently owned by the state. If the transfer is made then the utility area would go to the DA office and this space would be renovated to give these employees more room. The county commissioners learned about this proposal during an Oct. 17 meeting.

“We are crowded, we need more space,” DA Office Manager Corina Tibbetts said. She explained the department has a memorandum of understanding with the state to swap portions of the building with the DA office acquiring a former vault space adjacent to its existing offices.

Piscataquis County DA Chris Almy — who holds the same position in Penobscot County — has a private office on the first floor of the courthouse and across the hall are two rooms. Tibbetts and Paralegal Chelsi Martell have desks in the room with the door leading to the hallway, and next to them is the second room for Domestic Violence Investigator Scott Arno and Victim Witness Advocate Julianne Wortman. The space for Arno and Wortman is near the space that could be converted to expand the DA office into three connected rooms.

“It would be one more piece of office space,” Tibbetts said, as after the meeting she showed the commissioners the current DA office setup.

“If the commissioners agreed to do this we would go out to bid,” County Manager Tom Lizotte said.

An estimate of $70,000 was first mentioned for the project. Lizotte said there is enough money in a building improvement reserve account for the DA office expansion.

“I would say looking at the overall cost it is closer to $80,000 than $70,000,” Lizotte said.

Head of Maintenance Josh York said the proposed renovations would be all set in terms of sprinklers and the fire alarm, but additional outlets and Internet access would be needed. He said the project could take about a month to complete, with work being done after hours.

“Do we need more space given the staffing at the district attorney’s office, that you can probably see right away,” Lizotte said. “At least we have the space, it’s underutilized by the state.”

He said the budget advisory committee has recently started its work on the county and unorganized territory spending plans, and one question to be determined is if the domestic violence investigator position will be funded after 2018. The position had been funded through the STOP Violence Against Women program, but the grant monies are scheduled to end next year to represent a loss of $63,000 in federal revenue.

A question to be answered is if the domestic violence investigator position is discontinued, is the need for an expanded office still as great. “It really is dependent on what the budget committee does with position and what you decide to do with the budget,” Lizotte told the commissioners.

“You can make a decision on this once the budget committee wraps up,” Lizotte said. The commissioners are scheduled to approve the two budgets during a December meeting.

Per the commissioner’s’ request after the tour, a lower project estimate may be brought forward at the next meeting.

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