Website proposal, fire protection highlight commissioners’ meeting

By Mike Lange
Staff Writer

    DOVER-FOXCROFT — The Piscataquis County website, like all Internet domains, is a good place to find information quickly and accurately.
    But the current site isn’t exactly user-friendly or attractive, according to a presenter at the Aug. 20 county commissioners meeting, and lacks many features found in other local government sites.

    Faith Talmadge, a summer intern with the county’s emergency management agency, said that there are many reasons to upgrade the website. “The website we have is very basic and there’s not a lot on it,” Talmadge said. “There’s a lot of information that should be there that isn’t, and some of it is outdated.”
    Talmadge said that the Ellsworth American newspaper has a website service and could build a new one for the county for $1,750 plus $49 per month maintenance fee. “You could have an FAQ (frequently-asked questions) section so help cut down on the number of phone calls (to county offices). They could find the information on the site instead,” she said.
    Talmadge said that news pages could be set up for any department that wanted one. “The sheriff’s department already has a Facebook page, so they could also publish news on the site if they wished,” she said. “There’s also a possibility of adding online forms so people could fill them out and bring them into the office.”
    An ideal site would also have a navigation bar with drop-down menus for each county department, more photos and the ability to update information quickly. “It would also have the ability to link to other websites, such as towns and unorganized territories,” said Talmadge.
    One of the sites managed by the Ellsworth American is Hancock County which includes all the features suggested by Talmadge including email contact information for key personnel. It also has a security feature to alleviate spamming problems, she said.
    Commissioner Fred Trask said that he planned to check out the Hancock County site a little more thoroughly before offering any recommendation. “But it’s obvious that the Hancock County site is more user-friendly than ours,” Trask said.
    County Manager Marilyn Tourtellotte suggested that she bring the information about the proposed new website to the department heads for feedback and bring back more information at the next meeting. The commissioners agreed.
    In other business, Brownville Town Manager Matt Pineo, told commissioners that the fire departments in eastern Piscataquis County would like to negotiate a new three-year contract for protection in the unorganized territories (UT) as soon as possible. Also, Pineo said, “We are not asking for an increase in price; and in this day and age, that’s very unusual.”
  Pineo pointed out that the Milo, Brownville and Sebec fire departments “basically take care of all the needs of eastern Piscataquis County, including Medford, Orneville and all the UTs. We also have mutual aid agreements with everyone.” By knowing well in advance if the pact will be approved, Pineo said, town governments can plan their budgets better.
    Milo Town Manager Dave Maynard said that he’s expecting “a very difficult year due to the railroad (layoffs) and cuts in revenue sharing. But in light of that situation, we are willing to hold the line.”
    Kevin Black, a captain with the Milo and Brownville fire departments, outlined some of the expenses and regulations facing the rural agencies. “We now have to start using ‘fifth-generation’ air packs. Milo has seven air packs that can’t be replaced and Brownville has two at $4,000 a pop,” Black said. “Just to get them bench-tested is $200 apiece.” Replacing a set of turnout gear could run $1,800, Black said. “If you fight interior fires, your equipment is junk in five years,” he said. “But we’re doing our part to keep our cost to the county down.”
    Trask said that he appreciated the departments’ concerns, but noted that there were other departments in the county that also needed to be considered like Greenville and Monson. “We’ll be working on the budget over the next few months and we appreciate the direction you’ve given us,” Trask said.
    The current budget for fire protection in eastern Piscataquis County is $22,000 for Orneville, $6,000 for Barnard; and $18,000 for Ebeeme, Williamsburg and KI townships.
    In the western part of the county, served by the Greenville and Monson fire departments, the budget is $9,000 for Blanchard, $9,000 for Elliottsville, and a total of $34,764 for other rural townships.

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