Funding for part-time PD slashed at town meeting

By Jenna Lookner | Jun 18, 2012
Photo by: Jenna Lookner Voters wait to cast a written ballot for an amendment to Lincolnville Warrant Article 6 cutting funding for part-time police.

Lincolnville — Lincolnville town meeting Saturday, June 16, lasted for more than three hours as residents and town officials discussed numerous articles on the warrant. Around 200 residents were in attendance and set to work passing several budget amendments including a significant cut to funding for municipal protection under Article 6.

As written on the warrant, Article 6 proposed municipal protection spending for the fiscal year 2013 — which begins July 1 — at $267,313. Cathy Hardy lead a group of Lincolnville residents who spoke in opposition to continuing part-time police officers in Lincolnville. Hardy said she wanted to "eliminate all part-time" police presence while continuing to employ full-time Lincolnville Police Chief Ron Young. Hardy said the cuts would reduce the municipal protection budget by $37,906 bringing it down to $229,407.

Hardy and others pointed out Lincolnville is one of the only municipalities of its size in the region with a municipal police force. Lincolnville already pays more than 9 percent of the Waldo County protection budget, Hardy said. She encouraged the crowd to vote in favor of an amendment to Article 6 effectively eliminating part-time police. Hardy referenced a document she provided to the Board of Selectmen detailing the precise breakdown of proposed funding cuts. She pointed out she was not proposing any cuts to the chief's budget. Hardy said she also wanted voters to cast a written ballot.

Hardy proposed cutting $28,886 in part-time wages, $2,810 in FICA and Medicare, $770 in uniforms and accessories, $500 in professional development, $1,200 in police cruiser maintenance and $3,740 in police cruiser gasoline.

Prior to casting written ballots several residents spoke on both sides of Hardy's amendment.

Bob Plausse said he was in favor of continuing to employ part-time officers.

"I see absolutely no reason to effect our quality of life here," Plausse said, adding police officers help everyone in town — from children to seniors. He pointed out that all of the part-time officers employed in Lincolnville already are trained when hired and don't receive benefits since they often have other, full-time employment.

Christina Barrows said she is training to become a police officer. She spoke about difficulties she had with her 15-year-old son requiring police assistance. She said she called the police three times in separate instances and each time received necessary aid from Lincolnville Police.

"Lincolnville is quick and professional," she said.

She noted two of her calls had resulted in the response of part-time officer Curt Andrick, who provided both the assistance she needed and a familiar face for she and her son.

Charles Boetsch took the floor and spoke in favor of cutting spending.

"I'm from the state of Maine and I carry my protection in my pocket," he said, sending a wave of hushed reaction through the crowd.

Town Administrator David Kinney explained the town only pays statutorily-required benefits to part-time officers. He said the reason the town pays 9.6 percent of the Waldo County Sheriff's Office budget is based on an individualized bill that the county sends to Lincolnville based on services rendered.

Jason Trundy, chairman of Lincolnville Board of Selectmen at the time of town meeting, said he had an idea the motion to cut funding on Article 6 was going to be put forward at town meeting. Trundy said he was planning to stay quiet but felt compelled to speak on behalf of the town's police force. Trundy has worked for Waldo County Sheriff's office for 17 years. He explained the way the patrol is divided into zones by the sheriff's office. While the sheriff and state police are the "frontline of law enforcement," he said citizens need to decide whether they want to "augment" the sheriff's coverage by hiring their own police force to gain "additional services."

Rick McLaughlin said the budget has to be reduced. He was one of several residents who lamented a trend of increasing taxes rapidly making it difficult to afford the cost of living.

Moderator Rick McKittrick explained the protocol before Kinney and secretary Karen Secotte prepared the written ballots.

McKittrick said the written ballot would determine whether the Article was amended to reflect the new amount — $229,906 — and afterward a second vote would be taken on Article 6.

Residents lined up and cast their votes, after about 20 minutes of voting the votes were counted by Kinney and town staff.

The amendment to Article 6 passed by a vote of 134 in favor and 41 against. A vote was then taken on the original motion to pass the newly amended article. After determining a written ballot was not desired by residents, a vote was taken by show of hands.

Article 6 passed, the show of hands vote "did not seem to be in dispute," McKittrick said.

A resident asked whether Article 6 could be reopened for discussion. McKittrick explained that it could be reopened prior to the adjournment of the meeting unless a motion to reconsider was opened and rejected sooner. The resident then motioned for the article to be reopened and residents defeated that motion, solidifying the previous action on the article.

Monday, June 18, Kinney said the vote means Lincolnville will not have part-time police effective July 1 due to the funding cut. He said while the town owns two cruisers, he expects the board of selectmen will decide what to do with the second cruiser in the near future. Kinney said Young spoke with all of the part-time officers Saturday following the meeting. Lincolnville has divided 32 hours among 3 to 5 part-time officers during the course of the past five years, Kinney said.

Town meeting is the "purest form of democracy," Kinney said. "We'll do the best we can to deliver with what the town has given us."

Article 13 — appropriations for Capital Improvement — also drew an amendment that subsequently passed, eliminating an appropriation of $6,500 for a new police cruiser. A $20,000 appropriation for the fire truck fund and a $30,000 appropriation for the Capital Investment Reserve passed under Article 13 lowering the total Capital Improvement budget from $56,500 to $50,000.

Article 5, the budget for Municipal Administration and Finance, was also reduced per voter amendment. The proposed budget of $412,418 was reduced to $399,618.

Courier Publications reporter Jenna Lookner can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at jlookner@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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