MEDWAY, Maine — Voters will decide at a town meeting next month whether to retain East Millinocket police as the town’s primary law enforcers, town Administrative Assistant Kathy Lee said.
The Board of Selectmen considered seeking police coverage from other agencies, at one point appearing to break off contract talks with East Millinocket officials, but a vast majority of residents at a selectmen’s meeting Tuesday opted in a straw poll to reject other options, Lee said.
Selectmen decided to place the $110,000 contract for continued East Millinocket police services on the agenda for the June 13 town meeting. No formal votes were taken, Lee said. If voters approve the contract, it will go into effect July 1.
Medway lacks its own police force. It has for many years contracted police services with East Millinocket, the closest municipal police force. The last increase in police service fees came in 2009, Lee has said, when Medway agreed to pay the present $89,500 annual fee, which lapses June 30, instead of $85,000.
During a meeting in late March, Selectmen Bruce Cox and Galen Kimball agreed to investigate options, Lee said. The options include state police, who post an officer in the Howland area, and the Penobscot County Deputy Sheriff’s Department, which patrols Mattawamkeag and Chester, among other areas.
State police and sheriff’s deputies come through Medway regularly on their way to other areas they patrol and to back up police and fire services when needed.
East Millinocket Police Chief Garold “Twig” Cramp said he was pleased with the voters’ decision. He and Penobscot County Chief Deputy Troy Morton attended Tuesday’s meeting to answer questions. They and other officers who attended left before the straw poll, Cramp said.
“We enjoy working with the people of Medway. It is a good working relationship and hopefully it can continue,” Cramp said Thursday.
Cramp said he believed that miscommunication and Medway officials’ frustration with East Millinocket leaders’ decision to cut a police patrolman’s position last year due to budget shortfalls at least partly accounted for the search for another police service.
“I really think it was miscommunication,” Cramp said. “Once it was explained that it [Medway police coverage] was 12-hour days broken into segments instead of a straight 12-hour shot, people seemed satisfied.”
Medway’s new fee would pay a third of the department’s patrol officer costs. Cramp and Clint Linscott, chairman of the East Millinocket Board of Selectmen, said that as far as they knew, Medway officials were never offered the opportunity to pay all of the costs of the cut position. Linscott was elected as a selectman in November.
“The Medway board was just looking at dollars when they presented their figures to the citizens, trying to save them money,” Linscott said. “They [selectmen] went in well prepared, showed their citizens what their mill rate would be under either [the East Millinocket or sheriff’s contracts].”
“Their presentation was excellent,” Linscott added. “Their citizens were very courteous. It seems there was overwhelming support for East Millinocket police, but before the straw poll, all the officers and East Millinocket selectmen left the room to allow them to vote.”
As with the old contract, the new contract would automatically renew annually unless either town’s officials decided to terminate the agreement, Lee said.