MOUNT DESERT — Chief Jim Willis will continue to lead both the Mount Desert and Bar Harbor police departments for another year, following unanimous approval of a new agreement Monday by the selectmen here and by the Bar Harbor Town Council last week.
Willis remains technically an employee of the town of Mount Desert, which in turn invoices Bar Harbor monthly for 60 percent of total costs associated with the shared responsibilities in the agreement.
Administrative Assistant Karen Richter is a Bar Harbor employee, so Bar Harbor invoices Mount Desert for 40 percent of her time.
Total contributions from each town are $10,180 per month from Bar Harbor and $6,787 from Mount Desert. These include cruiser and cell phone expenses as well as dues to professional associations.
The agreement lists goals for the upcoming year to improve efficiency, including common records management, phone and wireless connectivity, and defining responsibilities for shared supervisors.
“I think we’ve been working within the vision you folks have given us, as well as the Bar Harbor council,” Willis told selectmen Monday. “Any successes I think belong to the people who are out there doing the work.”
Bar Harbor Officer Brad O’Neil joined Willis for the council meeting last week. He told councilors, “I’ve been through the other administration and this, and the guidance and instruction and leadership that we have gotten now we’ve never had before. It’s a tremendous feeling, it makes us move and drives us forward, and it’s all positive. I’m grateful for Chief Willis, who has taken on this double duty. You guys need to hear that we’re getting great leadership.”
Councilor Gary Friedmann asked about creating agreements to cover more than one year and whether shared dispatch was on the horizon.
Next year’s agreement could be for a longer period such as two years, Town Manager Cornell Knight told the council.
On the question of sharing dispatchers, Willis said, there are technological challenges for dispatch and radio communications, especially given the mountains in and between the two towns, Willis said.
Also, “I think it’s important for people to remember dispatchers provide a lot of other services in both of these communities,” he said. “In Mount Desert, we vetted this out a few years ago, and it was very important to people to have somebody sitting in the office 24 hours a day so there was somebody to go see because they represented the town.
“Because after five in Northeast Harbor, without that person, the town is closed. That’s not really dispatching, but that’s what we’ve always called it.”
Willis said the new shared patrol zone structure includes each shift supervisor writing a summary at the end of each shift. “We’ll be gathering all those up to help us evaluate how this is working.”
Officers also are seeking feedback from residents, he said.
Dick Broom contributed reporting to this story.