TREMONT — Selectmen on Monday voted 4-0 to sign a contract with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, despite no guarantee on the hours of exclusive law enforcement coverage.
Tremont, which has no police department, has for years contracted with the sheriff’s department for dedicated hours patrolling the town. The contracts have been renewed annually. In June, selectmen voted to ask Sheriff Scott Kane for a three-year contract for 30 hours of exclusive coverage each week. The new contract falls short on both counts.
Instead of three years, the contract term runs from Oct. 1 of this year to Dec. 31, 2019, a period of two years and three months. Kane, in a letter to the town, explained that the dates are the same as a new collective bargaining agreement between the county and the union representing patrol officers.
“This should make it much cleaner with going forward with renewing the contract at that time,” Kane wrote.
There is no guarantee of 30 hours of coverage per week, as all contracts prior to one signed earlier this year guaranteed. Kane, faced with a staffing shortage due to deputies leaving the department, entered into a new contract earlier this year for “up to 30 hours” of weekly coverage. The contract approved this week retains that language.
Selectman Jamie Thurlow asked Kane if there could be some guarantee of a certain number of hours per week. The sheriff said he in “good faith” intends to try to provide the 30 hours each week.
“Right now, we’re fully staffed in patrol,” he said.
The contract has another related caveat. The sheriff’s department agrees to provide the service as long as there is “a suitable deputy willing to be assigned to the town.”
Under the contract, the town is to pay $60 per hour for coverage for the remainder of this year. For 2018, the charge goes to $61.50 per hour, and for 2019, it increases to $63 per hour.
The town or sheriff’s department can terminate the contract with 30 days notice. The sheriff’s department can terminate the contract without the 30 days notice if a deputy should no longer be available.
The number of hours billed to the town dropped off considerably after the “up to 30 hours” of coverage per week went into effect earlier this year and Kane was struggling to fill vacancies. Invoices from March, April and June show an average of fewer than 25 hours being billed for each month.