TREMONT — Hancock County Sheriff Scott Kane confirmed Monday that he would offer the town a three-year contract for law enforcement services as requested last month by the Board of the Selectmen.
“I’m thrilled to offer them a contract,” Kane said.
At their June 19 meeting, selectmen voted unanimously to ask the sheriff’s department for a three-year contract for 30 hours of exclusive coverage each week in Tremont. Their decision was in response to a recent vote by selectmen in Southwest Harbor to postpone offering a law enforcement contract to Tremont until determining what effect it could have on any future move toward partnering with Bar Harbor and Mount Desert in an islandwide police department.
Tremont selectmen asked Southwest Harbor for a proposal after voters at the May town elections approved 181-89 a warrant article authorizing selectmen to negotiate and enter into a three-year contract with Southwest Harbor for round-the-clock law enforcement services. The article was put on the warrant after selectmen were presented with a citizen petition asking for the vote.
The uncertainty of whether the sheriff’s department would have the contract after the first of the year led Kane to amend the contract with the town to reflect they would provide “up to 30 hours” of exclusive coverage each week at $60 per hour. He said at the time that he could not in good conscience fill a vacant deputy position without the assurance that the person would have a job at the end of the year. He maintained he was having to use his overtime budget and, due to the expense, expressed a desire to get out of the contract on July 1. The contract stipulates that either party can terminate the agreement with 30 days notice and without cause.
Tremont is the only island town without its own police department. Unless there is a contract deputy in town, law enforcement coverage falls to either the sheriff’s department or Maine State Police, depending on which agency has that “slot” at the time under a call-sharing agreement. The often lengthy response time to emergencies when an officer is not in town was the primary factor cited by residents when making a case for contracting with Southwest Harbor.
Kane said Monday that he has discussed the matter with Tremont Town Manager Dana Reed, but no final decision has been made about whether to extend the current contract for another two years or start fresh in January with a three-year contract. Although union contract negotiations still are ongoing with deputies, he said he doesn’t expect any major increases in the hourly rate.
“If there’s an increase, it’s not going to be substantial,” Kane said.
Kane said he has interviewed several candidates to fill the open position of deputy and believes he’ll soon be able to hire someone. That could get the town back to a full 30 hours of coverage each week.
“At this point, we’re getting as much of that contract covered as possible,” he said.
The 30 hours usually involves four shifts each week in the town. More often than not, only two of those shifts are being covered at this time, Kane said.