DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Words were exchanged Tuesday when the Piscataquis County commissioners rejected a request from the Sheriff’s Department to fill a vacant investigator’s position immediately.
Chief Deputy Dale Clukey told the commissioners that the Sheriff’s Department was going to advertise to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of investigator David Wilson a few months ago. The position is funded in the current year’s budget.
“Officer safety is the biggest concern right now,” Clukey said of the staffing shortage. Sometimes there is just one officer on a shift and that officer covers the entire county, he said.
But Clukey was advised he would not be advertising for the position until the Piscataquis County Budget Advisory Committee reviewed the request and the budget. The committee’s first review will be conducted tonight. The commissioners pointed out that they didn’t want to fill the position now and have the budget advisory committee recommend its elimination as part of the budget-cutting process.
“We’re trying to save the taxpayers some money, if possible,” commissioner Chairman Tom Lizotte said Tuesday.
Clukey told the commissioners that they were not saving money because the department’s overtime account was increasing “tremendously.”
“You’re using the worst kind of fearmongering in order to try to get more money for your budget,” Lizotte said. He said the department could use its reserve officers and pointed out that many of the larger towns have their own police departments to handle complaints.
He also pointed out that the Sheriff’s Department could have a call-sharing arrangement with Maine State Police but has chosen not to. That call-sharing seems to work in every other county, he said.
Obviously not pleased, Clukey said, “I’m concerned for our officers, but you three guys sitting over here don’t have a clue. You have never served one day on patrol so you don’t know what they run into, so don’t tell me you can sit there and judge what they’re doing and not doing.” He said he would pursue the issue in the media.
The Sheriff’s Department, however, did get approval to replace a leaking roof on the breezeway side of the department office. Charleston Correctional Facility inmates will do the work before winter.
Approval also was given to correct a heating problem in the old section of the Sheriff’s Department. The boiler in the jail does not have the capability of forcing the heat into the older section, Jail Administrator Dave Harmon told the commissioners.
“We’ve had times when the pipes have actually froze in the bathroom over there in the old sheriff’s quarters,” Harmon said.
There are enough funds in the jail’s capital improvement account to pay the approximately $100,000 to have another boiler installed to correct the problem, Harmon said.
The commissioners left it up to County Manager Marilyn Tourtelotte and Harmon to discuss the matter further, and to let the State Board of Corrections know of the need.
In another police-related matter, the commissioners were told that a pickup truck cruiser had about $4,000 in damage when an officer swerved to avoid a deer in Parkman and went into a ditch.