Piscataquis commissioners approve $4.25M county budget

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DOVER-FOXCROFT — A 2018 Piscataquis County budget totaling just under $4.25 million and a near $1,489,000 Unorganized Territory (UT) spending plan for the 2018-19 fiscal year were both formally approved by the county commissioners during a Dec. 5 meeting.

“No comments were received at the public hearing that any changes were needed in either the county or UT budgets,” County Manager Tom Lizotte said with the hearing held just over a week prior. Lizotte said copies of the approved budgets will now be sent out to the 17 towns and pair of plantations in Piscataquis County.

The $4,247,114 county budget is up by $152,265 (3.68 percent) from 2017. The combined tax commitment for the towns and plantations is $3,493,512, an increase of $97,382 (2.8 percent).

The UT budget for 2018-19 is down by $42,000 (2.74 percent) from the current fiscal year. The tax commitment of $965,963 has also decreased, by $48,269 (5 percent). Thirteen of 95 townships have UT budgets, with these geographic areas having county infrastructure and/or year-round residents.

“I would like to thank the budget committee on this, they really worked hard,” Commissioner Jim Annis said.

Sheriff John Goggin said the budget process went very smoothly in 2017. He then thanked Lizotte, the budget advisory committee and the commissioners.

In other business, the commissioners approved putting out to bid a revised plan for interior renovations to the district attorney’s office on the first floor of the Piscataquis County Courthouse.

“We are at the point where we are requesting that this go out to bid,” Piscataquis County District Attorney’s Office Office Manager Corina Tibbetts said.

The department has four employees working in two rooms. A possibility Tibbetts discussed and then showed the commissioners in October to alleviate the cramped quarters involved an adjacent former vault space being renovated and then used by the district attorney’s office. The vault space is currently owned by the state so the county department would swap ownership of a storage closet for the part of the building next to the district attorney’s office.

Tibbetts said a revised proposal has two new doors — with one for the district attorney and law enforcement and the other for victims and witnesses — being installed with the first entryway going from the office to the new space and the second door from the renovated vault to the hallway. The project would involve the installation of security devices on the door and a new window along with painting. She said lighting upgrades and carpet installation do not have to be part of the project.

“We need the space and we need the offices so we process those cases in a more productive order,” Tibbets said.

Piscataquis County District Attorney 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.

“The wiring really needs to be done regardless of what we do, to bring that office into the 21st century,” Lizotte said.

The commissioners decided to separate the project work into two bids, one for the renovations and another for the wiring work.

“I would say if you want to learn more put it right out to bid and see what you get,” Head of Maintenance Joshua York said. “What I understand is you don’t have to accept any bids.”

Commissioners Chair Jim White suggested bids be due by the end of January, and these could be opened and reviewed during a February meeting. Lizotte will work with Tibbetts to draft the bid specifications and make these available for interested contractors.

Goggin said with the district attorney’s staff looking at renovations he has been wondering if it would be feasible to make improvements to the sheriff’s office. In 2015 a plan to finance a new sheriff’s office building on the county campus was voted down at the polls and renovating the existing department space could be an option.

County officials suggested Goggin speak with an engineering firm to look at the building to see if the structure could be renovated and help determine what the sheriff’s department could do long-term.

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