Commissioners approve raises for part-time sheriff’s department officers

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DOVER-FOXCROFT — In an effort to help recruit and retain quality officers for several positions within the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office, the Piscataquis County Commissioners approved a request from Sheriff Robert Young to adjust hourly pay rates for part-time patrol deputies, dispatchers, and corrections officers during a Jan. 22 meeting.

“It’s a two-tiered system so someone doing the training is paid a different rate than someone who’s certified,” Young said.

Currently the sheriff’s office pays part-time corrections officers $13.50 per hour, $14 for dispatch, and $15 for patrol. Young’s proposal increases the hourly rate to $14 or $14.50 for certified corrections, $15 or $15.50 for certified dispatch, and $17 or $18 for Maine Criminal Justice Academy graduates for patrol.

Young said without offering any pay raises, “It’s almost impossible to find people to serve so it’s a step, I think, in the right direction.” The sheriff said the department budget is set but there are adequate funds for the pay rate change. He said full-time officers will still have a higher hourly rate, as the contract starting pay for each of the three positions is more than for the new part-time rates.

The sheriff’s office has three separate divisions, patrol, jail, and telecommunications.

In a follow-up email County Manager Tom Lizotte said the patrol division is comprised of Young, Chief Deputy Todd Lyford, Lt. Jamie Kane, Sgt. Mike Gould, and Deputies Guy Dow, Kyle Wilson and Robert Cook, plus Deputy Tysen Ober is on U.S. Army Reserve active duty and expected to return in May. There is a total of eight full-time officers once Ober is back. The 2019 fiscal year budget includes funds to hire another patrol deputy in the summer to bring the complement of full-time officers to nine

Lizotte said the patrol division is now using four part-time deputies. One is working to fill in for Ober, and three deputies work infrequently, a shift here and there usually on the weekend.

Jail Administrator Maria Landry has 14 full-time corrections officers to provide 24/7 coverage. The county manager said the jail is fully staffed right now, although a veteran corrections officer is expected to retire in March and the slot will be filled then. The jail has four part-time corrections officers who are used to fill shifts as needed.

For telecommunications the county dispatch center is also staffed 24/7 with Dispatch Sgt. Gary Grant and eight full-time dispatchers. There are no current openings in this division Lizotte said, and there are three part-time dispatchers who are available to cover shifts when full-timers are not available due to vacation, illness, etc.

In addition to the patrol staff, corrections officers, and dispatchers, the sheriff’s department employs an administrative assistant, two full-time jail cooks, and a part-time maintenance worker Lizotte said. Other employees work on a part-time basis to transport inmates to and from the jail, and as civil deputies to serve legal papers.

The current sheriff’s office patrol division budget totals a little more than $1,022,000, the jail budget is just under $987,000, and telecommunications totals approximately $673,700. The combined total is a little more than $2,682,800.

“In theory they would use more part-time money than overtime,” County Manager Tom Lizotte said. He said the adjustment would go into effect for the next pay period.

“If you want quality people you have got to pay,” Commissioners Chair James White said.

In other business Lizotte said, “Atkinson has moved up their final town meeting from March to Feb. 11 so I will be heading there to monitor those proceedings.”

County officials are making preparations for Atkinson to join the Unorganized Territory (UT) on July 1 — the community voted 187-19 (nearly 91 percent) at the November referendum to deorganize.

Many of the plans for how municipal services will be provided by the county have been set. One service still to be determined is plowing the approximate 22 miles of future county roads in Atkinson. A 1-year transitional contract with current contractor Chuck O’Brien of Dexter for the 2019-20 season has been mailed to him.

Lizotte said O’Brien is happy with the contract so he and the county should be able to finalize an agreement for the next season.

The commissioners may formally approve the contract at an upcoming meeting. In the spring a multi-year agreement to maintain winter roads in Atkinson beyond 2019-20 could be sought through a competitive bidding process. The community’s current municipal budget includes $112,000 for winter roads.

Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Tom Capraro said he met with an engineer from Dirigo Engineering to discuss revised plans for an agency storage garage for vehicles and equipment on the county’s East Main Street campus. The facility would go from two storeys to one and this should help reduce the construction costs.

Capraro said he met with the Dover-Foxcroft code enforcement officer and there are no issues. The EMA director said the amended plans should be finished later in the week or early the following week, and the blueprints will then be presented to the planning board.

The garage went out to bid twice last year. In May three bids for an EMA storage garage all came in multiple times more than the project budget. The garage estimate was between $85,000 and $100,000, and the bids were for $278,836, $342,848, and $476,638.

A month later the structure was put out to bid again with some revisions to the specs, such as eliminating a $100,000 performance bond requirement recommended by the project engineer and taking out a September completion deadline. Ralph McNaughton Construction of Newport, which bid $278,836 the first time, was the lone bidder for round two (five companies took out paperwork). The second submission from the company was for $259,618.

In July the commissioners passed a motion to waive the competitive bid process and authorize Capraro to negotiate with a contractor at a rate capped at $120,000.

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