State must partner with counties for Maine’s future, Secretary of State says

Posted Sept. 09, 2011, at 9:44 p.m.
Last modified July 04, 2012, at 2:47 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — State government must continue working with county officials to create a meaningful partnership for Maine’s future, Secretary of State Charles E. Summers Jr. told the annual gathering of the County Commissioners Association on Friday.

“When you look at the future, in so many ways, Maine is at a pivotal moment,” Summers told the nearly 200 people gathered at the Hilton Garden Inn. “The question is: are we ready to move ahead and do what works?”

The answer to that question includes the state improving its strong relationship with the 16 counties, many of which existed before Maine became a state, he said.

Summers also said that in order for the counties to flourish, the state has to commit the necessary resources.

The convention, which is being hosted by Penobscot County and held in Bangor for the first time in 10 years, began Friday and will end Sunday. Topics on the agenda included tax abatement, workplace safety, building security after hours, the state’s freedom of access to information law and the future of the Land Use Regulation Commission.

“We’ve been planning for the convention for six or seven months,” Penobscot County Commissioner Peter Baldacci of Bangor said shortly before Summers’ speech. “There’s been a great effort by department heads in putting this together.”

Baldacci said that the counties are stronger, more efficient and more collaborative than they were 10 years ago.

“The convention gives everybody an opportunity to come together and catch up,” Aroostook County Commissioner Paul J. Underwood of Presque Isle said. “We have a lot of common issues from deeds to working with the Board of Corrections to maintaining costs and best practices at our jails.”

Kaye Braaten of Wahpeton, N.D. attended the convention as the representative of the National Association of Counties. It was the fourth time Braaten has represented the national organization at a conference in the Pine Tree State.

She said that because North Dakota and Maine are rural states, they have a lot in common.

“There are a lot of the same kinds of things happening in every county in the nation,” Braaten said. “The counties don’t do the same thing in every state. I can share what has worked in another county in another state.”

The convention was not all work. Baldacci said that a team made up of Penobscot County staff had won the annual bowling tournament while a team made up of Penobsoct County commissioners had come in second.

A golf tournament was scheduled for Saturday.

“That’s where the real bragging rights are,” Baldacci said.

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