Media Archive

Voters OK continued police collaboration

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 165, No. 12, March 19, 2003

By Jessica Lee
Staff Writer

Brownville votes 76-43 to support shared police chief with Milo

Observer Photo/Jessica Lee
TOWN MEETING VOTE Nearly 150 voters and interested parties packed the Brownville Junction Alumni all for town meeting Monday in Brownville. Here, voting begins on the controversial police department budget, oters, in the end and despite some vocal opposition, supported the continuation of a shared police chief arrangement with the Town of Milo.

BROWNVILLE Voters at Monday's annual town meeting passed the $600,000 municipal budget unscathed, despite some opposition to the police line.

In a written vote, requested by resident John Owens, the town voted 76 to 43 in support of the police budget, as recommended by selectmen and the budget committee. The $74,750 police line incorporates the sharing of a police chief with neighboring Milo, complemented by a full-time patrol officer and reserve officers, to allow for 24-hour coverage.

Some residents asked why the town is not hiring its own full-time police chief, as it has in the past.

Town Manager Sophie Wilson said that the estimated cost of hiring a full-time chief is prohibitive, estimated at $102,000, and that the selectmen attempted to hire a full-time chief last fall, but found no suitable candidates.

She said that the collaboration with Milo allows the town to maintain 24-hour coverage, at less cost, while addressing a concern about overtime. She said the 12-hour shift schedule is necessary to eliminate the town's liability of violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

Wilson added that the state has promised 5 percent in additional municipal revenue sharing funds to those towns who work to collaborate in the delivery of public safety services.

The Brownville Junction Alumni Hall was full to standing-room-only, with about 120 voters and 25 non-voters, mostly students from Penquis Valley High School in Milo who witnessed the meeting. Police personnel from Brownville, Milo and the Piscataquis County Sheriff's Office lined the back wall, watching the proceedings.

With a vote to authorize the lesser budget, the town agreed to go forward with the sharing of a police chief with Milo. The Town of Milo now will need to hold a special town meeting to revise its budget, approved at town meeting last week, which did not account for the sharing of a police chief.

Prior to the opening of the town meeting, SAD 41 Superintendent David Walker addressed the crowd, giving an update on the budget process and other issues facing the school district. He said that with the withdrawal of Lakeview Plantation, to be voted on by the town April 9, The district stands to receive an additional $ 50,000 in state aid. He said that the state's budget, as it stands, does not provide much support for the schools and he warned that some programs/services may need to be cut this year to avoid a hefty school tax increase.

"The towns here already are making a huge tax contribution to the schools," Walker said. "You carry an above average mil rate to support us, and we recognize that."

He said the district will need to tighten its belt if there isn't a change in the state's formula for granting general purpose aid for education.

Residents then voted to support the $600,000 budget, as proposed, with no changes. The budget represents a slight decrease about $20,000 from the previous year. This was achieved despite a $15,000 decline in anticipated state revenue.

Voters authorized the use of $75,000 from fund balance, leaving approximately $276,000 in that account, to offset the mill rate for 2003.

In other warrant articles, residents voted to sell a 2.83 acre lot adjacent to the wastewater treatment plant to Duane Cobum, an abutting land owner, for a purchase price of $1,200; to appropriate $5,500 from undesignated/unrestricted funds to cover the newly-reconstructed portion of Van Home Avenue with recycled asphalt paving, and to appropriate approximately $22,000 from the Lundin Fund to use for sidewalk improvements.

Earlier, at the polls, voters reelected Dennis Green to the board of selectmen with 51 votes and Wilbur Nichols with 50 votes. Paula Copeland received 22 votes in her bid for one of the three-year terms.

Stacey Slagle was reelected to another three-year term on the SAD 41 board of directors.

There were several write-in candidates for the two open seats on the budget committee. Walter Durant,
with six votes, received the most votes for that position. In a tie for the second seat, with three votes each, were Terry Knowles, Larry Folsom and Dennis Russell.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.