Sheriff’s building purchase question set for July 14 referendum

DOVER-FOXCROFT — Piscataquis County residents will be asked to vote on the purchase of the former Key Bank location in downtown Guilford to be the new home of the sheriff’s office patrol and investigation divisions when they head to the polls on Tuesday, July 14.


Between now and the referendum county officials are looking to hold three meetings across the region, in Dover-Foxcroft, Greenville and Guilford. During a May 19 county commissioners meeting, County Manager Michael Williams said he has been speaking with town managers from each community to determine a venue that can potentially accommodate a large crowd while adhering to social distancing practices. 


He said a location is still to be determined for Greenville and one of the schools is likely for the Guilford session — the dates and times of each meeting are all to be determined. Williams said the Morton Avenue Municipal Building in Dover-Foxcroft will remain closed to the public so another site is needed. The Piscataquis Valley Fairgrounds is a possibility, with the use of a Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency PA system, and the county manager said he will also check on the availability of The Commons at Central Hall.  


“We have been doing a number of meetings by Zoom but you can’t really do a question and answer,” Commissioner Jim Annis said.


“What I will do is like I did for the budget committee, present the numbers, current costs, projected costs and the difference,” Wiliams said.


“We will have a presentation ready for it,” Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Todd Lyford said.


Late last year the commissioners authorized Sheriff Robert Young to sign a lease through mid-2020 for the patrol and investigation divisions to remain at the former Guilford Primary School building through the middle of the year while a real estate transaction is pending. In November a sale closed on the building with Friends of Community Fitness purchasing the structure from owner Clark’s Enterprises.


The county also looked at the C.H. Lightbody Medical Center on Park Street, which now is the location of the Guilford municipal office. In the middle of the process the county found another building that would better suit the needs of the sheriff’s office, and the commissioners have said the town was very gracious in letting the county back out of the verbal agreement.


To alleviate cramped conditions and lack of privacy inside the main sheriff’s office in the same larger complex as the Piscataquis County Jail on Court Street in Dover-Foxcroft, in the spring of 2018 the patrol and investigation divisions moved up Route 15 to Guilford at the former primary school building. The law enforcement space previously was the home of the SAD 4 administrative office suite.


With the school building placed up for sale, county officials had been working with the town on an agreement to rent and then purchase, following an affirmative vote at the annual March town meeting, the C.H. Lightbody Medical Center. In April Mayo Regional Hospital closed its primary care office in Guilford after experiencing significant provider turnover in the previous year and a half. Guilford Medical Associates was housed there via a lease with the town.


In other business the commissioners voted to open the county offices with social distancing protocols, such as maintaining a distance of six feet between people and masks encouraged, in place.


“I have been talking with some of the department heads about a soft opening of the county,” Williams said before the commissioners’ vote. 


Head of Maintenance Joshua York said some parts of the county complex had been closed to the public pre-pandemic and these will remain as such. He said the restrooms will be changed to allow just one person to use the facility at once, and signage for this adjustment will be posted.


“We will have to figure something out, people need to access things — it’s their right to look at things,” Commissioners Chair James White said, mentioning the registry of deeds as a department to be opened up again to the public.

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