The York County Sheriff’s Office has hired four new deputies and is adding a fifth, to bring the department back to full strength for the first time since major layoffs in September.

Sheriff Maurice Ouellette said the county’s improving budget picture has allowed him to restore all seven of the positions that were cut.

As the new deputies are integrated into the force – some still have to attend the Criminal Justice Academy – the department will be able to resume more proactive police work and can be more responsive, Ouellette said.

“We’re going to work our way back to that,” he said.

Most of the deputies who were laid off either retired or got jobs elsewhere.

Last year, York County found itself far short of having the money it needed to pay its work force. County officials responded by laying off 24 employees to balance the budget.

“A lot of times we’d stack calls,” Ouellette said. “You’d take the most serious, most important ones first.” Nonemergencies might not get a response in the same shift or the same day, he said.

With the department down one detective, investigations took longer.

For dangerous calls when a second deputy wasn’t available, the county would rely on backup from towns’ police or from the state police.

The county’s $18.1 million budget for this year is less than last year’s spending plan, but because the cuts are spread out over the year and other reductions were made, the county can restore many of the positions that were eliminated.

Two of the new deputies, Troy Chenard and Thomas Searway, will be able to start soon because they are already certified by the academy. Chenard came from the Sanford Police Department and Searway came from the Saco Police Department.

Robert Carr and Duane Fay have worked as reserve officers for the sheriff’s office and North Berwick, respectively. They will attend the academy in January.

The department is now screening applicants for the last vacant deputy position, which will bring the department up to its full strength of 24.

“I’m astounded at everything they do with the limited resources,” said acting Chief Deputy William King, who joined the department two months ago. “Now that the staffing levels are back up to what they were, we are going to be much more effective.”

 

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: [email protected]