Lincolnville mulls charter amendment regarding police force
Lincolnville — There were divided opinions at a public hearing regarding a potential change to the Lincolnville town charter that could make the employment of a local police force optional rather than mandatory.
Approximately 40 people attended the April 16 public hearing at Lincolnville Central School.
The petition for the proposed charter change was signed by 306 Lincolnville citizens — approximately 60 more than the 10 percent of registered voters required to put the article on the next written town ballot.
"[T]he wording submitted by the petitioners, would repeal all of the language in the charter regarding submitting a budget and how long a police chief is appointed for, all of those things would be gone," said Lincolnville Town Manager David Kinney.
Instead, the establishment or abolition of a local police force would be decided annually at town meeting.
"This question will be voted on on Tuesday, June 11th," Kinney said, but he added the June 15 town meeting article concerning appropriation of funds for local law enforcement is "going to be on the ballot one way or the other."
If the charter change is approved, police department budgets would subsequently be submitted by "whatever police presence there is," Kinney said.
Proponents of the charter amendment said they want to give citizens a chance to decide for themselves whether or not they wanted to employ local law enforcement.
Several citizens called to reestablish the previously abolished part-time patrol shifts, citing concerns of speeding motorists and rising crime rates.
According to previously published reports, the most recent comprehensive review of the Lincolnville town charter took place in 2002. During town meeting last year, residents voted down funding for part-time patrol officers in Lincolnville, decreasing the local police presence solely to Young. At the time, some residents argued the town would be served just as well by Waldo County Sheriff's deputies, who patrol the town in addition to local police.
At Tuesday's public hearing, other residents expressed concern as to the requirement that citizens be physically present at town meeting in order to vote on the issues presented, including town department budgets.
Digressions regarding Chief Ron Young's contributions to the community prompted Select Board Chairman David Barrows to at one point bang his gavel to restore order.
According to Kinney, the guidelines governing town meeting voting are set by the Maine state legislature and cannot be changed on a local level.
"If we're going to have town meeting form of government, those are your two basic options: open town meeting or referendum," Kinney said.
"You need to be here [and] be registered to actually cast a vote," Kinney said.
Camden Herald reporter Bane Okholm can be reached at 236-8511 ext. 304 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.