Police & Fire

Commissioners considering finance options for sheriff’s department radio system

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DOVER-FOXCROFT — Last month the Piscataquis County Commissioners gave approval to a radio system upgrade for the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office to replace antiquated dispatch equipment with components dating to the 1980s. County officials heard from Dispatch Sgt. Gary Grant who mentioned how he has been working for several years to upgrade the telecommunications division of the department through grants and funding sources — totaling about $72,000 — outside the county budget but said more money would be needed to complete the project.

“The actual price we will need is $145,383, that will include some work we need at the two tower sites,” Grant said during a Sept. 4 commissioners meeting. Two weeks prior an approximate figure of $139,000 was mentioned.

County Manager Tom Lizotte said he looked at various capital reserve accounts to see if any monies for be used for the radio system. Between telecommunications, monies set aside for a possible move of the dispatch center that won’t be happening anytime in the foreseeable future, and office furniture budget lines for the commissioners and county treasurer about $27,000 was found to reduce the $145,000-plus cost.

“If you look at other accounts, capital reserve is really needed for those purposes,” Lizotte said.

He said he checked with Gorham Savings Bank about financing the radio project and will speak with Androscoggin Savings Bank. A possibility could be to go with the $118,000-plus cost, after the $27,000, through a five-year lease rather than a one-time purchase price of a little more than $118,000.

“It’s more than needed, this radio stuff,” Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency Director Tom Capraro said. “I think it’s a life safety issue, I really do.”

Dover-Foxcroft Fire Chief Joe Guyotte said the department experienced radio difficulties when responding to a recent boat accident on Sebec Lake. “Cellphones don’t work, radio communications don’t work on Sebec Lake,” he said.

Lizotte is scheduled to present financial information on the radio system upgrades at a future meeting, with the commissioners leaning toward approving a lease package.

In other business, the commissioners approved a near $1.5 million 2018-19 jail budget for the 36-bed facility.

Lizotte said the jail budget expenditures total $1,494,773 and “that is up from 2017 about $27,000.”

He said a figure of approximately $949,000 could be raised through county taxes, an increase of 4 percent from the year before. “That is the maximum we can raise through county taxes for jail according to state law,” the county manager said.

Another $300,000 is budgeted for revenues received from boarding federal prisoners. Lizotte said the county ended up with $385,000 in this account last year as conservative projections are made.

After state revenue is applied to the jail budget, there is a net surplus of $68,000 in the spending plan which would go into several jail accounts. “That is a big improvement from a deficit of $150,000 we were looking at a year ago,” Lizotte said.

“This is the best I have felt about the jail budget in the four years I have been here,” he said.

“The budget is coming together, the deadline for all departments is this Thursday,” Lizotte said about the county and unorganized territory spending plans. He said he is awaiting program requests from 11 area agencies and a final number for the radio system upgrades.

“Next month I will be putting a final draft of the budget together with the department heads and getting that to you at the first meeting in October,” Lizotte said.

Capraro said he received a call from the National Weather Service following an Aug. 29 storm north of Moosehead Lake “and they were adamant there was a tornado up by Chesuncook Lake but there was no one up there to report it.”

He said county Road Agent Carl Henderson is scheduled to be up in impacted region and Henderson would let Capraro know what he sees for damage.

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