LUBEC, Maine — For the past eight years, the more than 1,300 residents of this remote seaside Washington County community have had their law enforcement needs met under a contract with the Washington County Sheriff’s Department. That contract ends June 30 and won’t be renewed.
Due to manpower shortages, Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith is pulling the plug on an agreement that, for $181,358 a year, provided Lubec with an 86-hours-a-week, two-officer patrol system. Those deputies made routine patrols, checking buildings and responding to resident concerns.
“We’re down by two deputies,” Smith said. “And recruitment and retention is way down, not only here but statewide. We just can’t continue to do this.”
“We had no idea that Donnie was facing these staffing issues,” Lubec Town Administrator John Sutherland said Friday. “There will be police coverage, through the Maine State Police and the sheriff’s department, as needed.”
Lubec is the only Washington County community that covers police services with contracted sheriff’s deputies, which costs the town about $500 a day. Jonesport once did, but recently opted out and now has no local law enforcement operation.
Lubec recently organized an informal committee to explore the cost and benefits of establishing its own police department. The loss of contract police services has prompted a harder look at how best to provide police coverage, Sutherland said.
“If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right,” he said. “We would have to have adequately trained officers and look at other costs, including vehicles and the costs of outfitting officers. That includes everything from weapons and computers to establishing a secure evidence room.”
Sutherland has only good things to say about Lubec’s relationship with Smith’s department.
“They’ve done a great job of working with us to resolve the issues we have here,” he said. “We sent them a thank you letter. It’s time now to take a look at what we need to do to move forward.”