May 24, 2018
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Knox County voters say yes to $2.5M bond request for public safety building

By Heather Steeves, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — Knox County will get a new public safety and emergency communication building after voters approved a $2.5 million bond request at the polls Tuesday.

The vote was 6,771 to 5,455 according to unofficial results.

The project will combine the sheriff’s office, the emergency management agency and the 911 dispatch center in a 10,300-square-foot building on Park Street that is currently owned by the Village Soup news service.

The building will cost about $500,000 and requires $840,000 in renovations. Another $900,000 will be spent on emergency communication equipment upgrades. The rest of the bond money, $260,000, will go toward furnishings, moving, a generator backup and other moving-related work.

The county will borrow up to $2.5 million at a maximum interest rate of 4.25 percent annually over 15 years. At that rate, the interest would cost $810,000 over the 15 years.

Ray Sisk is the director for Knox County Emergency Management Agency, which works closely with 911 dispatchers and the sheriff’s office.

“We need to be co-located,” Sisk said recently. “Without them we can’t function. Without support, they can’t function. It’s a symbiotic relationship. It’s difficult now because of the physical separation.”

As it is, the 911 dispatch center and sheriff’s office share space with the jail. There is so little space that some of the jail staff have to work out of the attic.

The Knox County emergency management agency is in the basement of the county courthouse. That agency trains dozens of volunteers at a time in emergency response, but often has to borrow space from other organizations because its conference room holds only 15 people.

At the polls Tuesday, Ann Bacon, an independent from Rockland, said she voted against the bond because “I’m tired of this county asking for money they don’t have.”

But registered Republican Mark Piscitelli of Rockland voted yes, explaining that the new building was necessary for the county, which he said has many dilapidated buildings.

“The sheriff’s office needs an expansion. And you can’t go wrong with upgrading 911 communications — it needs to be clear,” Piscitelli said.

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