WATERBORO — The town’s public safety committee is recommending a contract with the York County Sheriff’s Office for an additional deputy each year for the next two years and an assessment after 18 months to determine if more are needed.

Selectmen are expected to discuss the issue ”“ and the broader issue of the county’s system of rural patrol ”“ later this month.

For the past several years, Waterboro has contracted with the sheriff’s office for the services of one deputy who provides coverage for the town for 40 hours a week. Beyond that, Waterboro’s law enforcement is supplemented by the sheriff’s rural patrol, which provides primary coverage for nine of the county’s 14 towns without police departments. Maine State Police provide primary coverage for five rural communities.

But some selectmen here say the county rural patrol system itself is broken, pointing out the sheriff’s request for more personnel through the county’s budget process went nowhere and suggesting it is time to take a broader look.

The recommendation from the Public Safety Committee comes as the community, whose population was 7,693 at the 2010 census and was estimated at 7,747 by the U.S. Census in 2013, had 6,033 calls for service to the sheriff’s office in 2014. That figure is down slightly from 6,651 in 2013, but a big jump from 4,662 in 2012. In 2012, the sheriff’s office and Maine State Police had a different arrangement for dividing up rural law enforcement than they do now ”“ trading zones made up of several towns each month ”“ and MSP’s calls for service for Waterboro are not included in the 2012 figure. Calls for service include all that pertain to a community ”“ from burglaries and domestic violence and drug related crimes to traffic tickets and building checks.

The committee explored a couple of options, including Waterboro establishing its own police department, and while ongoing costs for the two options appear comparable, the report states, it also points out there are a few major differences, including start-up costs, an office and liability issues.

The public safety committee report estimated adding one contract deputy per year for the next couple of years would add about $85,000 annually to the town budget; that figure does not include the cost of police cruisers, which the committee recommends be funded by the sheriff’s office. Currently, Waterboro pays for one contract deputy and a vehicle, which works out to about $107,000 annually.

The Selectmen’s Board Chairman Dennis Abbott at a meeting last week said the issue is broader.

“The conversation has to get back to ground zero,” he said. “The law enforcement needs in the rural area is only going to get bigger.”

Selectwoman Tammy-Jo Girard, who is also a member of the County Budget Committee, pointed out that as contract deputy positions were brought on, their numbers were taken from the rural patrol ranks and those positions were not replaced.

York County Sheriff’s Office has 27 sworn officers, including administration ”“ the same number as it had in 2003. At that time, there were three contract deputies; currently there are six. In 2002, there were 19,508 calls for service in the rural towns covered by the sheriff’s office, and 27,235 in 2014.

Girard said the sheriff’s office currently doesn’t have staff to take part in a drug task force, as it previously has done, has returned its detectives to patrol, and doesn’t have a police dog to assist in investigations.

“The system is broken and I don’t know how you start the conversation,” said Abbott. “Why not fix rural patrol?”

Abbott said that the rural towns have always argued that the communities with police departments have to contribute to rural patrol, “but maybe they don’t,” he suggested.

Selectmen agreed to discuss the matter at their Aug. 25 meeting, set for 6 p.m. at the town hall, and will invite Sheriff Bill King to participate.

— 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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