Dexter panel fights cuts at Charleston

Posted Jan. 08, 2009, at 11:31 p.m.

DEXTER, Maine — Town councilors signed a resolution Thursday expressing opposition to proposed cuts at the Charleston Correctional Facility.

To help offset a $140 million revenue shortfall, Gov. John Baldacci has proposed closing a dormitory at the minimum security facility in Charleston which would eliminate 15 jobs.

That move, which will require legislative approval, will result in the relocation of 45 of the 145 inmates to other facilities and will greatly reduce the restitution program, officials said.

The five work crews have provided about 40,000 hours of service to nonprofit organizations throughout the region. Under the governor’s proposal, the number of crews likely would be reduced to three.

Town Manager David Pearson told the council the program has been extremely beneficial to Dexter, because the inmates have been involved in many projects in the community.

Councilor Judy Craig said the proposal also will affect some Dexter employees.

State Rep. Douglas A. Thomas, R-Ripley, advised the council in an e-mail read by Pearson on Thursday that he and other area legislators had met with Department of Corrections officials at the facility to discuss the proposed cuts.

“I am opposed to the cuts the DOC plans to make at the Charleston Correctional Facility,” Thomas said in the e-mail. “I believe these cuts will cost taxpayers, not save money. The department is not counting all the costs, and they will be sending inmates to jails that have a cost that is much higher than that of CCF.” Thomas also noted he was aware the reduction would mean communities will have to pick up the costs of projects that otherwise could be performed by the inmates.

The council agreed to send the resolution to all of the local representatives and to the governor.

An updated shoreland zoning ordinance recommended by the planning board will be presented at a public hearing next month as voted by the council. One issue expected to be addressed at the public hearing is changes that could be made in the ordinance regarding the commercial zone on Grove Street.

Maps identifying wetlands that will accompany the ordinance will be discussed at a public hearing later in the year. Councilor Sherman Leighton said some areas identified as wetlands are not wetlands and he recommended the matter be tabled until town officials could confer with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wild-life.

The council also agreed to join SAD 46 in a fuel contract. The town and SAD 46 now pay $3.66 a gallon of fuel compared with $2.28 a gallon under the proposed contract. Diesel will drop from $3.94 to $2.73 a gallon, and kerosene will drop from $4.53 to $3.15 a gallon, for a savings to the town of about $35,500, according to Pearson. The council is expected to formalize the contract next month.

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