DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Every month, Piscataquis County Sheriff John Goggin asks the Piscataquis County commissioners’ permission to purchase two police cruisers for his department. Every month, the commissioners say no.
“We always put in our order for cruisers in January and we get them in April or May,” said Goggin on Monday. “Now all of a sudden, they’re telling us we can’t do that anymore because the towns are not sending in their taxes until August or September. They don’t have the money to pay for these cruisers in the county budget.”
Thomas Lizotte, chairman of the commissioners, said the county’s budget is set on Jan. 1 but many towns and unorganized territories do not pay their county taxes until the fall. For the first eight months of the year, the county has to borrow money and run on a line of credit.
In order to save the taxpayers some money in the form of interest, Lizotte said the commissioners sent department heads a memo in January, informing them to defer large capital expenditures until the fall.
“He wants [the cruisers] now,” said Lizotte. “In February he asked if he could have the cruisers now. In March, in April, in May he asked the same question. The answer has been consistent every time: We’re going to make the purchases when we have the cash in hand.”
Goggin said this has been a change in procedure from years past.
“This year, right out of the blue, they decided they weren’t going to do that anymore,” said Goggin. “The precedent was set many, many years ago on how they spend county funds.”
Goggin said he has $50,000 allocated in his budget for two new Ford SUV police cruisers. He said his budget is on a rotation where he buys one cruiser one year and then two cruisers the next year.
“We’re about four cruisers behind right now,” said Goggin. “We have two [vehicles] that are still on the road that really shouldn’t be on the road. They’re old and they have maintenance problems. They’re over 5 years old. Our rotation schedule calls for them to be taken off the road after five years.
“We’re in desperate need for these cruisers,” he said.
Lizotte said he doesn’t understand why Goggin can’t wait a little while longer so the county has the money and won’t have to borrow.
“On large capital expenses, it makes a lot of sense to not pay large finance charges on them when we can pay for them with cash in the fall,” said Lizotte. “It’s a five-month wait. His continuing to ask over and over again will not result in a different response.”
By law, the county commissioners have power over any purchases of $2,500 or more, said Lizotte.
“We are doing what the law says we should do and we think it’s better for the taxpayers to wait until we have the cash,” said Lizotte.