LUBEC, Maine — This remote Washington County coastal community may go more than a year without routine law enforcement services after a long-standing contract that now provides police protection through the Washington County Sheriff’s Department runs out in 15 days.
Lubec, which has a population of 1,300, has no police department. For the past eight years, law enforcement needs here have been 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 within his own department, Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith has pulled the plug on renewing the agreement. The police protection contract provides Lubec with an 86-hours-a-week, two-officer patrol system at a cost of $181,358 a year, the equivalent of $500 a day.
When working the Lubec contract, Washington County deputies make routine patrols, check on the security of homes and businesses and respond to residents’ concerns.
Smith said his department’s duty roster is two deputies short and that recruiting new deputies has proven challenging, not only in Washington County but statewide. Without the extra contract coverage, police services Lubec requires will be provided as needed through the Maine State Police and the sheriff’s department.
William Daye, chairman of Lubec’s Board of Selectmen, said Thursday it may take more than a year to sort out how the town can best meet its law enforcement needs. Some months ago, before Daye and other town officials learned that Smith would not be renewing the police protection contract, the town appointed a committee to study the costs and other issues inherent in Lubec having its own police department.
“Right now we’re in the process of putting up a public works building and a sand and salt shed,” Daye said. “That’s been both time-consuming and expensive. After that project is behind us, I anticipate that we will revive the work of the police committee, which will explore alternatives.”
After analysis of the costs and benefits of the various alternatives identified, Daye said the issue likely will be discussed and voted upon at the August 2013 town meeting.
Lubec is the only Washington County community that covers police services with contracted sheriff’s deputies. Jonesport once did, but recently opted out and now has no local law enforcement operation.