DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — As the Piscataquis County commissioners ponder the economy and the possibility it may be no better in future years, they are weighing whether to ask the sheriff and chief deputy to use their own cars in 2011 rather than county-issued vehicles.
Commissioner Tom Lizotte said Tuesday that a budget advisory committee member had told the commissioners that the state had eliminated issuing vehicles to administrators at the Charleston Correctional Facility and wondered whether that could be done at the county level.
Goggin actually had suggested to the budget committee that the county could swap the low-mileage cruisers he and Chief Deputy Dale Clukey use with two older cruisers that have higher mileage, then purchase two less cruiser-grade vehicles for the two administrators.
But Lizotte went a step further Tuesday. In an effort to shave expenses, he suggested it might make sense for the two administrators to use their own vehicles in future years and for the county to reimburse them for mileage.
It would be a first for the state, according to Goggin. He said all of the counties provide vehicles for their sheriffs and chief deputies.
Contacted Tuesday, Sheriff Barry Delong of Somerset County and Sheriff Glenn Ross of Penobscot County said their counties would lose if they were relegated to their own personal vehicles. Both said the job is 24 hours, seven days a week and requires their attendance at many functions, as well as emergency situations.
“It’s more of a safety and common-sense issue,” Delong said.
“I couldn’t be without mine and still perform my function,” Ross said. “It would be a major setback.”
The mere mention of the possibility of using his personal vehicle raised Goggin’s ire.
“Every time I make a generous offer, it comes back and haunts me,” he said Tuesday at the commissioners meeting. If he had to use his personal vehicle, Goggin believed it would be more expensive for the county, which would have to pay his mileage, maintenance costs, and costly repairs should the vehicle have a major prob-lem such as a lost transmission.
Goggin said after the meeting that several years ago he initiated a change in which cruisers are assigned to deputies, a move he said has saved the county thousands of dollars by extending the life of the cruisers. He said he has done everything to cut back on expenses, yet his department continues to take hits.
“I am very concerned in the direction that the commissioners are going in as far as their attitude or support for the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department in general,” Goggin said after the meeting. “We have taken nothing but cutbacks in the last two years, and they have no perception of the precarious position that they are putting our agency in.”
While they do use their county-issued vehicles to go back and forth to their homes, Goggin said they also use them to respond when deputies are involved in an accident, are assaulted or are involved in incidents where guns are drawn, and they attend many meetings.
Lizotte said the commissioners need to find out how the vehicles are used other than going to and from Goggin’s and Clukey’s homes and the sheriff’s office.
“Do administrative people who have no patrol responsibility — and that’s both the sheriff and chief deputy — do they need police cruisers provided at taxpayer expense?” Lizotte said after the meeting.
Lizotte said the commissioners have a year to discuss the matter further with Goggin. He said the board was not trying to take the sheriff’s vehicle away, but in times of tight budgets and when the department needs an extra vehicle, there’s no harm in having a conversation on whether the sheriff or chief deputy’s vehicles could be turned into the regular motor pool.