May 28, 2018
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Piscataquis joins effort to resolve state-imposed jail costs

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The Piscataquis County commissioners voted 3-0 Tuesday to push the Legislature either to repeal a law requiring statewide county jail consolidation or start paying cost overruns incurred by the state-imposed jail spending cap.

The commissioners voted to join efforts by an association of the 15 county jails to get the state Department of Corrections to pay the extra costs or to have the law repealed.

Commissioners predicted that the $3.5 million the Legislature set aside for jail cost overruns won’t be nearly enough to meet all extra expenses incurred.

“If they [state officials] don’t uphold their end of the deal, I think we should force the issue and ask them to repeal the law,” Commissioner Tom Lizotte said after the meeting.

Under a consolidation plan adopted last year by the Legislature, county jails now fall under the jurisdiction of the state. As part of that plan, Piscataquis County’s cost for the operation of the jail was capped at $878,939, and any costs above that initially were going to be covered by the state, Piscataquis County Sheriff John Gog-gin has said.

Goggin predicted in January that the jail would have funds enough to operate for seven or eight months if the state did not ante up its share. Any additional funds to finish out the year would fall back on the county budget, he said.

In essence, the county would be back-funding the full operation of the approximately $1.4 million jail budget as it has over the years, resulting in none of the savings touted by the state’s proposal, he said. Unlike previous years, the revenues the county receives from the jail no longer can be used to help reduce property taxes un-der the new consolidation program.

It was unclear Tuesday whether the back-funding was immediately needed.

The Maine County Commissioners Association is heading up the repeal effort, officials said.


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