SWAN’S ISLAND – Swan’s Island Board of Selectmen Chairman Myron “Sonny” Sprague asked the Hancock County Commissioners to increase an offshore island tax assessment credit for law enforcement services on the island and the board agreed.
The commission held its monthly meeting for March on Tuesday.
The county had planned to give Swan’s Island $5,000 to defray law enforcement costs, but Sprague asked for an additional $10,000 for a total of $15,000.
The commissioners were unanimous in their support for the increase.
The Hancock County Sheriff’s Office is mandated to provide law enforcement in all Hancock County municipalities as well as the unorganized territories.
However, certain municipalities, including Stonington, Tremont and Swan’s Island, contract with the sheriff’s office for additional patrols.
Swan’s Island has contracted to have a deputy on the island for several years. The town provides housing.
The island paid $105,137.97 last year for law enforcement, Sprague said. “This year we’re jumping $12,000. Apparently, there’s going to be another jump.”
“We really appreciate the sheriff’s department, but it is getting high,” Sprague said.
“We provide housing,” he said. “We provide the cruiser. If we took the $117,000 and added the housing, our budget is $135,000 to $140,000 a year for law enforcement. $140,000 on Swan’s Island is quite a bit.”
“If the taxpayers rebelled, I think it would cost probably much more than $15,000 for the county to have law enforcement on Swan’s Island,” said Sprague.
County Commission chairman and former sheriff Bill Clark agreed.
It doesn’t take long for costs to mount up “when you’re looking at ferry fees, overtime fees, time in going out to the island,” Clark said.
“They’re already paying a certain amount of county tax that everybody pays,” Clark said. “If we don’t give them something back, we’re charging them twice for the same service.”
Sprague cited a statute that allows islands without a connecting bridge to the mainland to receive a tax credit from counties when they enter into contracts for law enforcement. The dollar amount set by the statute is $50,000.
“I’m certainly not looking for $50,000,” said Sprague. “I think $10,000 would be wise and fair and hopefully might happen.”
Clark said according to the statute, the county will have to set the rate annually.