For Lincoln County Sheriff Todd Brackett, all the signs, literally, seemed to be pointing to a region-wide labor shortage. On May 15, Brackett was working a patrol shift due to his department being down two deputies. While he was on a call in East Boothbay, he saw a help wanted sign at East Boothbay General Store. He saw others while driving through Boothbay Harbor. A large sign read “Help wanted” at Hannaford. As he proceeded down Townsend Avenue, another one was at the Irving Convenience store. He spotted another one as he approached the Boothbay line at Hammond Lumber. He saw even more help wanted signs while driving to Damariscotta, including at Edgecomb Potters, before he spotted the final one at N.C. Hunt Lumber on U.S. Route 1.
At this point, it dawned on him, he wasn't the only chief executive searching for labor. During the May 17 Lincoln County Commissioners meeting, he proposed his hiring incentive plan for a second time, and used his weekend shift to encourage approval. His plan would pay experienced law enforcement officers a bonus for joining the department. “This is not just a law enforcement problem. It’s statewide, and everybody needs labor. That is apparent from all the signs I saw this weekend,” he said. “Law enforcement is in a competitive market for labor. We are not just competing with other agencies. We are competing with the private sector, too.”
On May 3, Brackett introduced a proposal based on a Westbrook Police Department plan. On May 17, he provided commissioners a more detailed plan with how the payout worked. Brackett reported his department has faced a labor shortage for five years. He also has two deputies who have received offers from other law enforcement agencies which would bring his deputy deficit to four. Brackett again explained how the incentive plan would work. For an officer with over 10 years’ experience, the incentive would pay $16,000 over a three-year period. An officer with five to nine years’ experience would receive a $12,000 incentive paid over three years. And an officer with four years or less experience would receive $6,000 paid over three years. Brackett also wants to pay his officers a $2,000 bonus for referrals. He wants to try the plan as an experimental plan for one year.
Brackett believes the plan would achieve departmental savings through reduced hiring, training and overtime costs. He estimated the incentive plan would save approximately $50,000. “Our goal is attracting more experienced deputies. I know there are risks with this, but I don’t know what else to do.”
Commissioner Mary Trescott supported the proposal, but Hamilton Meserve and William Blodgett wanted more time. “This is five or six pages long, and I want more time to review it,” Blodgett said.
In other action, Brackett presented Det. Scott Hayden with the “Deputy of the Year” award. Hayden works as a criminal investigator. Brackett described Hayden’s role as a detective who investigates burglaries, financial fraud, child abuse and sexual assault cases. “He is also our electronics expert. Scott retrieves information from phones which is a great benefit in our investigations,” he said.
Commissioners also approved payment for a new cruiser bought from Key Chrysler in Damariscotta for $30,898.
The commissioners met in-person at Lincoln County Region Planning Commission in Wiscasset.