June 25, 2018
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County decides to limit access to deeds office

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Lawyers and surveyors who have had access to the Piscataquis County Registry of Deeds after office hours no longer will have that decades-old opportunity, starting Oct. 16.

The county’s insurance carrier, the Maine County Commissioners Risk Pool, advised county officials that such a policy enhanced the county’s risk for liability and personal injury claims.

“I’m not saying there have been problems in the past [but there’s always the potential for problems],” Commissioner Tom Lizotte said Tuesday. It is believed Piscataquis County is the only county that allowed that practice, he said.

Linda Smith, registrar of deeds, said Tuesday afternoon that the practice was in place when she was elected in 1999. At that time, lawyers and surveyors had their own keys and used them whenever they wanted to access the deeds office.

Smith said she asked for all the keys when she became registrar, then provided one key and an access list to the Piscataquis County Jail. Any lawyer or surveyor who wanted access to the deeds office after-hours had to give a code to a jail official to get the key, she said. Each had an account sheet in which he or she recorded the number of copies made after hours, according to Smith.

“I tried to tighten up the system a little bit so we had a better idea of who had been here and when,” Smith said. “We’ve never had a problem.”

Smith said she had told some of the approximately 20 people who used the office after-hours about the change, and most were not surprised that it was taking place.

Another change the commissioners would like to make, again at the advice of the county’s insurance carrier, is to have a formal agreement with the town of Guilford regarding police coverage on weekends. Through a longtime oral agreement, the county has provided an officer to Guilford on the weekends. The town pays for the officer’s salary and furnishes a vehicle and the gasoline.

Guilford selectmen earlier this month said they have no interest in formalizing the agreement.

Having an oral agreement “is not in the county’s best interest,” Lizotte said.

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