Knox County towns eye regional services

Posted July 23, 2012, at 12:46 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — General assistance to the poor, animal control, solid waste and grant writing were among the services that municipal officials from across Knox County discussed as possible items that could be done on a regional basis.

Selectmen and town managers from the county met July 16 with the Knox County commissioners to consider possible coordination of services between municipalities and the county.

Commissioner Carol Maines noted that the last time such a meeting was held — two to three years ago — there was concern by some municipalities that administration of regional services by the county was either a power grab or that there was no need for county government.

There were no comments of that type at last week’s meeting.

Maines said she was surprised when the county referendum to borrow money for expansion of the public safety complex and improved communications equipment was approved by voters in November.

County Commission Chairman Roger Moody said he doubted there would be any savings if the state were to take over duties performed by county government such as deeds or probate.

“I’m not sure there is any more wisdom at the state level,” he said.

In regard to regional services, Rockport Town Manager Robert Peabody suggested the communities consider a shared general assistance office.

Peabody said handling general assistance requests is one of the more difficult parts of the job. He said no community in Knox County has a full-time general assistance director and a countywide post might offer benefits.

“There could be a common standard for Knox County and this might stop people going from town to town to try to get benefits,” he said.

Owls Head Selectwoman Nancy Colson noted she has chased down people at 4 a.m. to prove they were lying on their application for general assistance.

Maines said having just one office in the county could be a hardship for some recipients, particularly if they do not drive.

Animal control also was discussed at length by municipal officials.

County Commissioner Andrew Hart noted that the county would need to have more than one person do the job for the entire county.

“If you have a call about a cow in the middle of the road in St. George and a dog bite in Washington, what do they do?” Hart asked.

South Thomaston Selectman Jeff Northgraves said it would not be cost-effective once more than one person was hired.

Warren Selectman Dan Davey noted that the town has an animal control officer and an assistant, and they are busy.

Thomaston Selectman Peter Lammert said the animal control officers will be even busier now that towns allow residents to set off fireworks. He said dogs will go into panic when they hear the fireworks go off in their neighborhoods.

There was little support voiced by municipal officials for a regional code enforcement office.

Maines suggested that it would easier for builders since there would be one set of standards.

Moody noted after the meeting that one area where the county could provide assistance is grant writing.

Washington Selectman Donald Grinnell had noted that small towns could use that service since they don’t have the time or expertise to write grants.

Moody said the one area the parties agreed on is for the county to organize a meeting for town officials to meet with local legislators on areas of common concern.

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