Media Archive

Brownville police debate headed to town meeting

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 165, No. 4, January 22, 2003

By Jessica Lee
Staff Writer

BROWNVILLE There will be two options for police coverage on the town meeting warrant next March.

Selectmen unanimously agreed Thursday to place a second option on the warrant that would allow Brownville to maintain a two-man police department, without going to neighboring Milo for complementary coverage.

Town Manager Sophie Wilson had initially provided only one option for the police budget in the coming year, based on coordinating coverage with Milo and sharing that town's police chief, Todd Lyford.

The board voted to provide a second option on the town warrant, after Selectman Gary Cook brought up concerns he has heard from townspeople about the proposal. The vote also came after selectmen and budget committee members convened in a closed door session to get advice in a telephone conference with the town's attorney, David Gray, regarding staffing of the police department.

While discussion of the town budget is not allowed in a closed door session, according to state law, Wilson stressed the two boards would be receiving "advice on the legal implications of the structural options for operating the police department."

"We're not going in to talk about the budget," she said.

The selectmen also met in a second executive session to discuss an unspecified personnel matter with the attorney.

Cook, in open session, said that he would like to see a second option on the town meeting warrant, aside from the sharing of a police chief with Milo, with "gaps [in police coverage] in slow periods."

Wilson said the sheriff's department would cover the town, during those times when no town police officer is on patrol or on call.

Chairman Dennis Green said he is interested in "putting the best coverage on the road for the least price." He said he believes the collaboration with Milo would allow for a savings, while maintaining 24-hour a day, seven-day a week police coverage. "This is the best option," he said.

The proposed police budget for the coming year does not include a salary for a full-time police chief. It does include funds to pay for a part-time chief shared with Milo, a full-time patrol officer, and additional funds to pay reserve officers to supplement coverage. This option would cost $74,230 a $270 decrease from the 2002 budget.

The second option discussed include the cost for a full-time chief, a full-time patrol officer, as well as additional funds to pay reserve officers to offset a problem in scheduling that conflicts with the Federal Labor Standards Act. The estimated cost of this option is $110,370.

Wilson said that some residents have voiced concerns about the collaboration, as one officer during some shifts would cover both communities. She said that Dover - Poxcroft which is larger geographically than Milo and Brownville combined, and with a larger population runs one officer during slow periods.

She said the first option "allows us to keep local control, with savings, and still maintain coverage in our community."

Cook said that while he did not believe the collaboration "is a bad option," townspeople voted last fall to maintain the police department as it has been run historically with a full-time police chief, full-time patrol officer and 24-hour coverage. He said townspeople may be willing to pay the extra cost to maintain the status quo.

The next budget workshop is set for Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 6 p.m. in the town office.

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