Contract sought with Guilford to continue police coverage

Posted Oct. 06, 2009, at 9:24 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:11 p.m.

GUILFORD, Maine — The Piscataquis County commissioners heeded Sheriff John Goggin’s plea Tuesday to allow his department to continue its “informal” arrangement for police coverage with the town of Guilford.

For about 45 years, Guilford has hired Piscataquis County deputies to patrol the town 24 hours each week, according to Goggin. The town hires the deputies, pays their salaries and furnishes a vehicle, which carries the Sheriff’s Department’s logo. The county pays for the training of the deputies, the county uniforms, the record keeping and firearms qualifications.

For consistency and to cover liability issues, the commissioners suggested that a written or formal contract be signed with Guilford under one of two proposals: the town would continue the practice as it exists but the county would coordinate the patrol schedule in Guilford; or the county would provide the service and bill the town.

Guilford town officials don’t favor either proposal and want to continue the arrangement that has been in place over the years. “It’s worked for 50 years, I’m OK [with it],” Guilford Town Manager Tom Goulette told commissioners Tuesday.

The lack of a contract came to light a few months ago when the Sheriff’s Department was asked to submit a proposal for police coverage to the town of Milo.

“What we do for one town, we should do the same for all of them,” Commissioner Fred Trask said Tuesday.

In addition, the risk pool manager of the Maine County Commissioners’ Association advised the commissioners that the undefined relationship with Guilford exposed the county to liability, Commissioner Tom Lizotte said Tuesday.

Liability aside, Goggin said the arrangement with Guilford was helpful to the county.

“From my own personal opinion at this point in time, we would be making an extremely terrible mistake if the county discontinued the coverage within the town of Guilford,” Goggin said. He explained that Guilford always has allowed its officers, at town expense, to go to a neighboring town if an incident should arise and help is needed.

About 70 percent of the county’s calls are in the Guilford hub; that’s where most of the calls originate, Goggin said. If Guilford were to stop the practice of providing police coverage on the weekends, it would cost the county a great deal of money, he said.

Lizotte said his intent is not to change the relationship but to put it down on paper.

“We do not have any evidence other than people’s memories of how exactly this works,” he said.

The commissioners agreed that they would be happy for the time being if Goulette would just describe the current practices on paper.

“We’re not pushing the town of Guilford to change practices at all,” Lizotte said. “That might not make our insurance representative in Augusta totally happy, but it will make us happy.”

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