County completes budget workshops

Posted:  Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 7:45am

The Lincoln County Budget Committee wrapped up deliberations Oct. 26 by reviewing the county’s single largest budget, the Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff Todd Brackett justified the increase in the department’s budget of $132,018 by saying he was hiring a new person to focus on traffic issues. “We have issues in Damariscotta Mills every year, and every year, they want a sheriff’s deputy there to enforce traffic laws ... there are kids swimming, people walking in the streets, and so on, and cars drive way too fast. We’ve done studies that show that there has been an increase in traffic flow by 682,550 cars per year. We need constant visibility to get people to obey the law.”

The new deputy wouldn’t be drawn away to other calls, he said. “Right now, if we put someone there for a few hours, he might get called to an accident, or a domestic disturbance, or something else. What we need is for him to be there the whole time.”

Brackett showed a series of videos of encounters the deputies face, some routine and others not . “The car is on top of him!” a deputy shouts in one of a high-speed chase deputies believed to involve a drunk driver. “We need an ambulance here now!”

Brackett said, despite the relatively low year-round population of Lincoln County, summer months are different here. “We have hundreds of thousands of seasonal residents and visitors. That’s not a problem faced by other counties of our size, like Kennebec County.”

The department budget of $3,036,995 was approved, as was the smaller sheriff’s court budget, much of which is rebated by the state. Also approved was the jail transport budget of $559,089.

The committee approved the budgets for the Cooperative Extension, the Soil and Water District, and  Lincoln County Historical Association.

It also approved the recycling budget, which has gone up because revenues have decreased. County Administrator Carrie Kipfer said demand has decreased for certain plastics and much of the glass collected.  Still, she said, the cost for recycling more than offsets the additional tipping fees that would be added onto property taxes in the towns that participate in the program.

The Emergency Management Agency budget was approved, as was the jail assessment, which covers Lincoln County’s share of the jail operations.

Kipfer said reserves were being reworked, and most of the reserve requests were being left until the replacement or retrofit costs were assessed. The only differences were in county mapping, which cost less than anticipated; IT infrastructure; roads and bridges, removed from the reserve budget, and two sheriff’s department items, including information and technology and training, removed at Brackett’s request. “We need to know what the cost to replace an underground oil tank would be, not just throw money at it and hope it’s enough,” Kipfer said. “We’re doing assessments now to come up with hard numbers so we know there’s enough, but not more than we need, in these accounts.”