ALFRED —York County Sheriff William ”˜Bill” King told county budget committee members Wednesday that rural patrol is short staffed and that he’s looking for funding for three new deputies.

He said he’s had to modify some aspects of how deputies currently patrol the rural reaches of York County, including having detectives assume patrol duties.

King asked the budget board to add money to his rural patrol budget to help cope with increasing calls for service that top 27,000 annually.

Rural patrol has 27 positions, six of which are contract deputies, whereby specific communities and one school district have a contract with the sheriff’s office to provide 40 hours of coverage each week. Those six are not included in the proposed $2.5 million rural patrol budget.

King, who was elected in November and took office Jan. 1, said he’s also looking to replace high mileage cruisers. No vehicles were purchased in 2009 or 2010, and that decision is coming back to haunt the department, he said.

King is looking to add $400,000 to his $2.5 million rural patrol budget.

He said he’s looking for “boots on the ground.”

“We’re very bare bones,” King said. He said the agency is trying to get a handle on the proliferation of heroin that he said is a problem in the rural communities, not just in cities. As well, projections that show that all of the rural communities, except for Cornish, are destined to grow in population by double digits percentages by 2030, he said.

He said he applauds the towns with contracts, but added that in itself won’t sustain the department and its ability to serve citizens.

“I want this issue known. I know budgets are tight, but we can’t continue this way,” said King. “Someone’s going to get hurt.”

He said the department is actively attempting to hire deputies for three existing vacancies.

Some budget committee members acknowledged that rural patrol is short-staffed as compared to policing levels in other communities. Other budget members pointed out that some rural municipalities won’t consider paying for contract deputies ”“ a fact that rankles, particularly in the municipalities with police departments.

Richard Clark, a county budget committee member and a selectmen in Wells, which employs its own police department, said his community is poised to pay the county $1.6 million in taxes next year. That figure is about $77,000 more than this year’s county tax tab.

“I have little sympathy for the towns that don’t have $86,000 for a contract deputy,” said Clark. He said rural towns that need more policing will have to pay for it.

Art Tardif of Saco agreed. He said it’s hard to sympathize with the towns that won’t pay for contracted coverage.

“Do I want to see a budget increase of $400,000? Probably not,” said Budget Committee Member Dean LePage of Limerick, one of the towns covered by rural patrol. “But I don’t want to see your officers hurt and citizens fail to get proper police protection.” LePage said if $400,000 is an unpalatable amount, perhaps the budget panel can reach some sort of compromise.

Others brought up that larger communities tend to use services of the jail more than the rural towns, which carries a cost.

Tammy-Jo Girard, a budget committee member who works for a  municipal police department, said in the past, her agency had been able to call on the sheriff’s office to check compliance with bail conditions on perpetrators who live outside of town, but said the sheriff’s office no longer has the staffing for that.

King pegged the population of the 14 rural towns without police departments at 48,000 in the winter and nearly double in the summer. He acknowledged a call sharing agreement with Maine State Police that sees that agency assume primary responsibility of five of those towns, but said that agency has a different policing model than does the sheriff’s office.

Cliff Emery of Buxton said it is becoming increasingly difficult for some communities, like his own, to afford to keep their own police departments. He said Buxton has asked the sheriff’s office and Scarborough police for pricing on costs of covering Buxton 24 hours a day, year around.

Budget Committee Chairman John Sylvester asked why there had been no discussion of a more regional approach to policing. He said King had downplayed the call sharing agreement with Maine State Police.

King said he’d originally asked county commissioners for a lieutenant’s position, a request that was turned down and after some review, and then brought his request for more deputies to the budget panel.

County Commissioner Marston Lovell said had King asked commissioners for more deputies, their recommendation may have been different.

Commissioner Mike Cote said its a matter of balance and that he’d like to see more contract deputies.

Commissioner Richard Dutremble said he supports the sheriff’s office “but to a certain extent.”

County Manager Greg Zinser said his overall budget, which does not contain King’s request for more personnel and vehicles, attempts to provide for all the county’s departments.

The budget committee also heard from York County Emergency Management Agency Director Art Cleaves on his proposed departmental budget. The committee will hear from other departments, schedule a public hearing and vote on the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. While the budget committee sets the budget, commissioners vote on policy and so it is their decision whether to hire additional personnel or purchase goods and services.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]



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