Stuart Hedstrom • August 7, 2019
DOVER-FOXCROFT — To alleviate cramped conditions and lack of privacy inside the main sheriff’s office in the same larger complex as the Piscataquis County Jail on Court Street in Dover-Foxcroft, in the spring of 2018 the patrol and investigation divisions moved up Route 15 to Guilford at the former primary school building. The law enforcement space previously was the home of the SAD 4 administrative office suite.
With the school building for sale county officials are working with the town of Guilford on an agreement to rent and then purchase, following an affirmative vote at the annual town meeting in mid-March, the C.H. Lightbody Medical Center on Park Street. In April Mayo Regional Hospital closed its primary care office in Guilford after experiencing significant provider turnover in the previous year and a half. Guilford Medical Associates was housed there via a lease with the town.
During an Aug. 6 meeting of the county commissioners, Chair James White said the previous night county officials met with the Guilford selectmen at the C.H. Lightbody Medical Center. He said the selectmen passed a motion in favor then and the commissioners voted on Tuesday morning to relocate the patrol office starting in November.
“All parties agreed it would be the patrol deputy location for the sheriff’s department,” White said, saying Guilford officials agreed to a comparable rental rate as the current location.
Earlier this year the commissioners approved extending the space lease through the end of 2022, continuing the $1,200 rent for the remainder of 2019 and then going to $1,600 per month for 2020-22 with utilities included.
“In March it will be put on the town meeting warrant in Guilford for the county to purchase if we can come to an agreeable price,” White said.
“It certainly is suitable, the county potentially has room to expand in the future with dispatch capabilities,’ he said, as the medical building is comprised of about 20 rooms.
County Manager Michael Williams said the 2019 assessment has the building worth $322,000 with another $22,400 for the land for a total of $344,400, the same as for the previous decade-plus.
White said the county is looking to move the sheriff’s office across Guilford for Nov. 1. “The town’s agreed to let us have access in the building in the meantime,” he said, as between the first day of November and mid-March the county and Guilford officials will negotiate a potential sale price.
“The reason we’re doing this is the building we’re renting now is for sale and we don’t know what the future is,” White said. He said the school building also has a limited scope for expansion.
“It was basically an experiment to see how stationing the majority of deputies in Guilford would work out and it is shortening the response time and giving the sheriff’s department a bigger footprint in the county,” White said. “It’s not a brand new building, there are some things that are going to have to be addressed but it’s very minor.”
“Also there’s more parking area too,” Commissioner Wayne Erkkinen said.
“The sheriff’s office will never leave, by statute it has to be in the county seat,” White said, with the head of the department remaining in Dover-Foxcroft.
“We’re very excited, it’s a great building,” Chief Deputy Todd Lyford said. He said the former medical facility would provide more work space and more storage than the school building.
“We still have stuff here that we could centralize, uniforms,” he said.
In other business, the commissioners opted to table a decision on the closure of a section of the Mountain Road in Blanchard Township until next summer.
Earlier this year spring runoff caused nearly $23,000 in damage to an approximate 1,000-foot stretch of the Mountain Road. County officials had looked at closing this section of the narrow, steep, dead end travelway to winter maintenance to prevent such occurrences and save money but they sought feedback with one year-round resident and other property owners using the road during all four seasons.
Nearly $23,000 in improvements were made to the Mountain Road and White said the commissioners would see how these fixes help the travelway stand up through the 2019-20 winter. “It’s not our intention to close any roads we don’t need to,” he said.
“We appreciate that and I have to say the road looks pretty good right now,” seasonal resident Ron Franklin said.
“It’s tabled until the first week of July and then we will revisit the whole thing,” White said.
“The roof is done,” Jail Administrator Maria Landry said about the new covering for the inmate recreation yard behind the jail.
In a post on the department’s Facebook page Sheriff Bob Young wrote, “I know that many folks have been asking, why? And what did that cost us? The why is so that inmates can get outside for fresh air and exercise. Not only are we required to provide these opportunities, it also helps a great deal to keep violence and mischief at bay. The roof provides many more days when the rec yard can be used, and it helps to prevent snow and ice buildup in the soon to arrive winter months.
“The cost is further good news; no tax money was used to construct the roof. When an inmate in booked into the jail, they have the option of signing up for a telephone account. Inmates pay for the account and for each outgoing call. Because we administer the system and they use jail equipment, the jail receives a commission on each call. That money is placed into a separate account tightly controlled by state law and regulations. The money in this account can only be used for the direct benefit of inmates and can’t be used to supplement any part of the county jail budget. The legal list of uses is very limited indeed! For example, this money can’t be used to buy new mattresses for the beds or writing supplies for inmates but can be used to buy sports equipment.”
Young wrote that Landry “was facing a problem of a growing account balance and no good, legal way to utilize it. She came up with the concept of a roof over the recreation yard, a project that we could never afford through the budget process. Benefiting inmates and corrections officers alike, it helps to keep the internal security of the jail at a peak level. It was a good idea all the way around.”