NEWS
(from the
January 2005 Maine Townsman)

Limestone: At the November 2 election, residents here voted 534-484 to disband the municipal police department in favor of contracted police services with the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office. At the end of December, the board of selectmen put the finishing touches on a six-month contract with the sheriff’s department to provide full-time protection in town. The cost of the contract was $119,000. The Limestone Police Department had included a part-time chief and several reserve officers. The town has decided to retain the municipal department’s police equipment in case residents decide to revert back to a local police department.

Searsport: The town’s fire department got a pretty nice hand-me-down from the Westfield Fire Department in Connecticut last month. The Connecticut town got a $160,000 Homeland Security grant to upgrade its fire equipment and so donated four Scott Air Packs and 30 pass alarms to the Searsport department. Estimated value of the donation was $18,000.

Topsham: In November of 2003, the board of selectmen approved switching the town’s law enforcement dispatching to the Sagadahoc Regional Communications Center. The switch was expected to save about $100,000. On January 1, 2005, the transition formally started.

Biddeford: City Manager Ed Clifford has proposed a city government reorganization, some of which would require formation of a charter commission. Clifford believes that the fire and police commissions should be eliminated and the city’s emergency services put directly under the city manager’s supervision. He is also proposing to make the city clerk's position reporting to the manager instead of the mayor, as is the current structure.

Livermore Falls: Rep. Janet Mills (D-Farmington) is sponsoring a bill this legislative session that would allow the town of Livermore Falls to be annexed by Franklin County. Livermore Falls is now in Androscoggin County. In November, a straw poll vote of L-F residents showed support for studying the pros and cons of the town leaving Androscoggin and joining Franklin.

Frankfort: Thanks to the federal government, the town will be purchasing a new fire truck this year. Town officials received notice in December that the town would be getting a $143,529 Homeland Security grant to purchase the new truck. It will replace a 30 year-old pumper that was donated to the department a few years ago by the Searsport Fire Department.

Sanford: A Boston development company has announced plans to build a new retail shopping center here. Details of the scope of the project are a little sketchy, but according to newspaper reports, the company is looking at a 36-acre parcel near the town airport and has expressed an interest in developing 350,000 sq. ft. of retail space.

South Portland/Cape Elizabeth/Scarborough: These towns are considering a shared dispatching center, but with some hesitancy. The state has a goal of reducing the number of PSAPs (public safety answering points) statewide from 48 to between 16 and 24. Public safety and other town officials are questioning the cost savings from the combined PSAPs and concerned about a potential reduction in service to their residents.

Dixfield/Mexico: These two Oxford County towns are looking into the possibility of merging their police departments. This was one of several ideas to be raised at a January 18 th meeting of area town officials who were to discuss ways to pool resources in an effort to save money.

Brunswick: The town council has authorized the city manager to acquire three downtown properties paving the way for an expansion of the Central Fire Station. In November 2003, a $13 million plan to build a public safety facility outside the downtown was defeated in a referendum vote by a 3-1 margin. Cost estimates for the downtown fire station expansion are pegged at $4.1 million.

Penobscot County: Fire department officials in nine municipalities are talking about forming a regionalized fire service. In early December, fire chiefs from Bangor, Brewer, Old Town, Orono, Hampden, Holden, Eddington, and Orrington met to discuss the idea. The group is seeking a state planning grant to further explore the idea.

Newcastle: An interim report has been issued by the Newcastle Governance Committee containing some significant recommendations for changing the structure of town government. The committee has recommended: (1) increasing the size of the board of selectmen from 3 to 5 members; (2)hiring a town administrator; (3) hiring a certified, part-time tax assessor; and (4) creating a town website.

Somerset County: The idea of building a new county jail is continuing to find support. The existing jail is over 100 years old and is overcrowded. According to Sheriff Barry DeLong, the county spends about $400,000 a year paying for inmates to be housed somewhere other than Somerset County. County officials are under pressure to either fix a long list of problems at the existing facility or build a new one. One thought on the table is that a new, larger facility could not only avoid the cost of housing inmates elsewhere, but potentially be a revenue producer by housing other counties’ inmates.

Wells: Local police officers were interested in raising money to help out a 17-year veteran of department who had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The Maine Attorney General’s Office, however, told them that this fundraising activity by police officers would violate Maine’s Solicitation by Law Enforcement Officers Act. The law prohibits any police officers, agencies or associations from soliciting funds to benefit those same people or groups.

Windham/Gorham: A plan to share assessing services has been abandoned. For several months, officials from these two neighboring communities were discussing the idea. The plan was for Windham, who has been without a single assessor since October 2003, to contract with Gorham to use its assessing department. For a variety of reasons, the two towns were unable to agree on the structure of the contract. Windham officials are now reviewing their options for the town providing its own assessing services.