County residents to vote on sheriff’s building purchase
DOVER-FOXCROFT — Next month citizens of the region will be voting on the $145,000 — plus interest — 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. Before the referendum, county officials will be holding several late June information meetings across the region on the bond question.
“Right now I’ve got three meetings scheduled,” County Manager Michael Williams said during a June 2 county commissioners meeting. He said the first will be at 6 p.m. on Monday, June 22 at the American Legion in Greenville. Williams said the town plans to use a new video system to record the session and rebroadcast it later on the local public access channel.
Williams said other meetings are set for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24 at Piscataquis Community High School in Guilford and on Monday, June 29 at the Milo American Legion. “I’m still working on Dover,” he said, as he and officials at The Commons at Central Hall are working to see if 50 people can be accommodated inside while maintaining proper social distancing protocols.
“The ballot’s all approved, it’s been approved by the secretary of state,” the county manager said. “The purchase and sales agreement has been signed by us, we are waiting to hear back from Key.”
The question reads, Do you favor a $145,000 bond issue to purchase the former Key Bank building, located at 2 Hudson Avenue in Guilford, Maine, in order to relocate and provide infrastructure for the patrol division of the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department?
The ballot says the estimated total lifetime cost is $174,100, made up of $145,000 in principal and about $29,100 in interest (based on a rate of 3.47% over 10 years). The ballot also states a “yes” vote approves the issuance of up to $145,000 in general obligation bonds of the county to purchase the former bank. A “no” vote opposes the bond issue in its entirety.
At the previous commissioners meeting in mid-May, Williams said he will conduct a presentation at the various meetings to go over figures such as current, costs, projected costs and the difference. The Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office will also have a presentation for the public.
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, county officials discussed the security concerns for the region with President Donald Trump’s planned visit to Puritan Medical Products in Guilford on Friday, June 5. The company produces medical swabs used in the coronavirus testing process.
Rep. Paul Stearns, R-Guilford said the president is planning to come and thank the Puritan workers for their efforts. “I thought ‘boy that’s pretty cool, how often does the President come to Guilford, Maine?,’” he said.
Stearns acknowledged the security concerns and “my understanding is it’s more of an official visit rather than an event” with Trump likely to just tour the plant and not be holding a public rally.
“Certainly our little town of Guilford is not equipped to handle looters, rioters and professionals to come in and do what they do,” Stearns said, referencing the violence that has been seen in communities across the country following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
When asked, Williams said he has not yet had a chance to talk with the sheriff.
“Security should be a concern but I’m sure it’s going to be extensive,” Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville said. “No one knows the time, they’re keeping it down and I think it’s a good thing they’re keeping it down.”
Davis said the Secret Service will do its job but the question is what about the downtown businesses with many people, in support and opposed to Trump, potentially traveling to Guilford at the end of the week a few days after Portland experienced rioting and damage.
“We’re pretty limited with numbers in the sheriff’s department, I’m sure they will do what they do,” Commissioners Chair James White said. He said he hopes additional law enforcement, such as from the Maine State Police, will be up in the region.
Stearns said he has a contact in the Governor’s office and he will relay these concerns. “I’m not worried about the people in Piscataquis County who disagree with the President who come up and rally,” he said.
White said he listened to a livestream from the events in Portland the previous evening and “these people didn’t come from Portland, they come here to rile people up. If there’s one window broken I expect swift action. I own a business in Piscataquis County, I won’t put up with that.”
“They’re all coming up here, where are they going to park?,” Piscataquis County District Attorney’s Office Manager Corina Rackliff asked.
She also mentioned the county courthouse complex in Dover-Foxcroft as a potential protest location on Friday and said, “We need to be aware of that as well.”
“I know they’re talking about closing roads as well, they’re hard at work right now,” Jail Administrator Maria Landry said about the sheriff’s office in her report.
“I’m starting to get calls from different entities,” Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency Director Tom Capraro said in reference to Friday in his report to the commissioners.