Damariscotta considers eliminating Police Department

7:34 PM, Aug 28, 2012   |    comments
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DAMARISCOTTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Town officials in Damariscotta are deciding whether to eliminate the town's police department, and hire the county sheriff instead.

Selectmen will meet Wednesday night to vote on a proposal from the Sheriff's Department to take over policing of the town.

Damariscotta currently has a full-time department with five officers, including the chief, plus several part-time positions. But for years, there have been some in the town who complained about the cost. So Town Manager Matt Lutkus and selectmen asked Lincoln County Sheriff Todd Brackett to run the numbers, and see if the county could provide policing for less.

The proposal from the Sheriff was reviewed by selectmen and the police chief Monday evening. According to Lutkus, it shows the current police force costs roughly $505,000 this year. The Sheriff proposes providing the same level of 24/7 police coverage for $432,000. Lutkus says the primary difference is that the town would save the cost of administration. He also suggests there would be added benefits, such as being able to rent out the current police station, that would bring total savings to $95,000.

Police Chief Chad Andrews says he questions whether the savings to taxpayers would be enough to outweigh the loss of their local police force. Andrews says the Damariscotta officers have close connections to the community, and know the local people and neighborhoods well. He says residents will provide those officers with information because they know them, and questions whether that would happen if the Sheriff's Department took over. Andrews also says the department provides a range of other services, such as checking on elderly residents, that the Sheriff's deputies might not be able to do.

Local business owner Barnaby Porter, who says he likes having police officers walking Main Street, says he also values having a town police department. And resident Mary Trescott, who was a Damariscotta police officer herself in the 1970's, says she doesn't want to lose a local, in-town police station, as a place people can go for help.

The Sheriff's proposal would provide the same basic level of coverage the town has now, and would give the current Damariscotta officers the first chance to apply for the new deputy jobs. But Chief Andrews says the proposal "has no guarantee" the current officers would be hired.

Selectmen are scheduled to meet Wednesday night to discuss and vote on the Sheriff's proposal. If it is approved, the question would go to Damariscotta voters on the November ballot.


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