DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — A discussion about the possibility of Piscataquis County funding the fourth year of a federal Cops Fast grant awarded to Greenville expanded Tuesday to include the need for better collaboration among law enforcement at the local, county and state levels.
Greenville town officials had asked the Piscataquis County commissioners last month if the county would pay the fourth-year costs of a Cops Fast grant, or about $60,000, if the Greenville Police Department handled all of the complaints in the Unorganized Territory surrounding the town. Greenville residents in June rejected the grant before it was awarded mainly because of the fourth-year cost. The federal government pays the first three years of a four-year Cops Fast grant, which is used to hire an extra police officer.
Greenville police often respond now to complaints in the nearby Unorganized Territory but that service is subsidized by Greenville residents, according to Greenville police Chief Jeff Pomerleau. He noted that the town’s service to the outlying areas increased after a county patrol position in the sheriff’s department was eliminated last year, a move he had opposed.
“I’m just looking for a way to help,” Pomerleau said Tuesday.
If the county funded the cost for Greenville, the commissioners said it also should fund the fourth-year costs for other Cops Fast recipients such as Dover-Foxcroft and Milo. Both are in the second year of their grants. Although neither for nor against such an idea, the commissioners agreed that it would improve the response time for those in the outlying Unorganized Territory.
The commissioners were told last month, however, that the sharing of such grants by the town and county was not permitted by the federal government, according to Sheriff John Goggin. Goggin said Tuesday that he had made a telephone inquiry of a Cops Fast program supervisor and that was the answer provided to him.
But Greenville Town Manager Gary Lamb, who contacted another federal official under the Cops Fast program after last month’s meeting, said he was advised in an email, shared with the commissioners, that such a move was allowed.
Despite the conflicting statements, most of the town officials who attended Tuesday’s meeting were lukewarm to the county funding the fourth-year costs for any local police department because it would increase the county tax. Both Milo Town Manager Jeff Gahagan and Brownville Town Manager Matthew Pineo said their boards were not favorable of the idea. Rather, Pineo said the county should solicit help from the Maine State Police since taxpayers already fund its operation.
Regardless of the past differences, Pineo said the county needs to look ahead and seek more collaboration between all law enforcement agencies. He recommended, and the commissioners agreed, to host a public meeting regarding law enforcement in early December.