Lincolnville abolishes police departmentPrepares for EMS transition
Lincolnville — By a margin of 187 to 163 on a hand vote, Lincolnville residents at town meeting effectively abolished the police department for the next year, at least.
In the June 11 election, residents approved a charter change giving town meeting voters the authority to establish or abolish a police department.
Earlier in the June 15 meeting, which lasted about five hours, the roughly 375 people in attendance had formed a line snaking around three sides of the gymnasium at Lincolnville Central School to vote by secret ballot whether to amend the motion calling for zero funding for the police department to the $85,557 recommended by the Board of Selectmen and the budget committee. That amendment failed by a vote of 189 to 186, opening the way for the vote on the zero dollar amount.
Because of the unusually high attendance, the meeting started half an hour after the published start time of 10 a.m. During the discussion of Article 7, funding the police department, moderator Ric McKittrick worked hard to makes sure all sides were heard, despite the interruptions of a few persistent hecklers.
Article 7 was the second article taken up by the meeting, because Articles 1 through 5 had been decided at the polls June 11. The discussion began with Cathy Hardy, a former selectman and newly elected member of the budget committee, moving that no funding be approved for the police department.
She cited two reasons for effectively abolishing the town's police force: first, "we need to keep our town's property taxes as low as possible," adding that the police department cost the average Lincolnville resident $41.16 in taxes annually.
Second, Hardy said the town didn't need a police department. "I'm confident Waldo County Sheriff's Office is more than able to handle" law enforcement needs in the town, she said.
Following Hardy, Michael Lund spoke for the police department, amending Hardy's motion to $130,000 for a police chief and the part-time officers eliminated at last year's town meeting.
"It isn't the money," Lund said, in a remark that seemed to express the feelings of many on the other side, as well as his own, "it's the principle."
He went on to say that children and senior citizens in town "deserve to be protected" by a town police department.
After further discussion, the amendment for $130,000 was defeated, and discussion on the original motion calling for no funding continued.
Many residents took the floor to offer their experiences, positive and negative, with the police department. Some argued that the town does not have enough crime to warrant having a police department, and that the fire department and the Waldo County Sherrif's Office were often the agencies that got to crashes first anyway.
Others felt that having a police department close to Lincolnville Central School helped to keep the school free of drugs and other crime, and that the town's low crime rate was because of the local police force.
Bob Ploss, who identified himself as a former police commissioner, said, "There's nothing that's going to take the place of a local police department. ... The money is insignificant."
He was followed by Ernest Littlefield, who said the town's police didn't come to vehicle crashes, the fire department does, adding of the current police department, "the coverage is not good."
Hardy's motion to discontinue funding was amended again by Kathleen Oliver, this time to $85,557, the amount recommended on the warrant by the selectmen and the budget committee. When it passed on a hand vote by 182 to 181, there was a call for a re-vote by written ballot. That vote went against the amendment, 189 to 186, and the meeting was once more back to considering the original, zero dollar funding motion, which passed, as stated above.
That vote was immediately followed by motion to reconsider Article 7. Budget Committee Chairman Tom Wilhelm explained that if the motion passed, the article could be discussed further; if the motion failed, the article could not be brought up again during the course of the meeting, thus freeing those who had come just to vote on that item to leave.
The motion to reconsider failed.
Article 8 called for the town to appropriate $39,000 to pay the police chief's salary and benefits for six months, as called for in his contract with the town, and his vacation pay, as required by state law, since the police department had been eliminated.
It passed, and a motion to reconsider it failed.
In other action, under Article 9 voters at the meeting amended the $77,000 for EMS services recommended in the warrant by selectmen and the budget committee to $5,000. As Town Administrator David Kinney explained, the higher figure was put into the warrant because it was the best information the town had at the time the warrant had to be prepared.
The $77,000 was the amount requested from the town by Camden First Aid Association for the upcoming fiscal year, while $5,000 was the request from North East Mobile Health in its proposal to provide EMS services to Camden, Hope, Lincolnville and Rockport.
During the discussion of the EMS appropriation, Julia Libby, vice chairman of the Board of Selectmen and chief of Camden First Aid, said "North East is not really ready to roll on July 1."
Dennis Simmons, North East's Rockport division manager, said, "There will be no lapse in your EMS service during this transition period," adding the company will move resources from other operations, if necessary, to provide the same level of service Camden First Aid had been providing.
Resident Dick McLaughlin thanked Libby for her, and Camden First Aid's, long service to the town, and the crowd rose in a standing ovation to her. Libby provided a welcome moment of levity, responding that, "I've reached the stage in my life where at two in the morning, I really don't care if you're sick."
The rest of the warrant, Articles 10 through 35, passed on hand votes, with little controversy.
Under Article 18, which funded the town's capital improvement program, residents voted to eliminate $2,500 for a future police cruiser, reducing the amount budget under this item from $35,000 to $32,500.
Under Article 20, which appropriated funds for provider agencies, voters approved the higher amount of $10,094 recommended by the budget committee, rather than the $5,486 suggested by selectmen, fully funding almost all of the agencies' requests.
On a motion by Selectman Rosey Gerry, Articles 23-34 were consolidated and passed with a single vote.
The last item of business, Article 35, authorized the Board of Selectmen to sell two parcels of land near the Ducktrap River to the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for a wildlife corridor. When residents expressed skepticism that the state would pay fair market value, as specified in the article, Town Administrator David Kinney noted that if the selectmen don't get what they think is a fair offer, they don't have to sell the parcels. He said the money from the sale of the parcels, if they are sold, would go into undesignated funds.
Following the meeting, the selectmen met briefly to elect officers for the next year. Ladleah Dunn was elected chairman, Julia Libby was re-elected vice chairman, and Rosey Gerry was chosen as secretary.
Sarah E. Reynolds is a reporter for the Camden Herald.
Sarah E. Reynolds has been a reporter and writer for more than 20 years, winning awards from the Maine Press Association and other professional organizations. She loves to read, hike and play word games.
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