Hancock County Sheriff Scott Kane. Kane said changes in the contract for provision of law enforcement services to Tremont were changed because of uncertainty regarding future contracts and hiring concerns. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Sheriff trims cop contract

TREMONT — The town’s 2017 contract with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office does not guarantee 30 hours of exclusive coverage as with past contracts.

Under the contract, which selectmen on Tuesday voted to authorize Town Manager Dana Reed to sign, the town agrees to pay the sheriff’s department $60 “for each hour worked not to exceed 30 hours each week.” Past contracts specified the town would pay an hourly amount “for 30 hours each week.”

On Wednesday, Sheriff Scott Kane said the wording of the contract was changed due to the uncertainty of what will happen when the contract expires on Dec. 31. The warrant for the town’s annual meeting in May includes an article asking voters if they wish to contract with Southwest Harbor for law enforcement services, beginning on Jan. 1, 2018. The article was placed on the warrant as the result of a citizen petition signed by 89 voters.

A deputy recently left the sheriff’s department for the state police. Kane said he would need to hire a replacement in order to guarantee 30 hours coverage, a step he is unwilling to take.

“I can’t in good faith hire somebody without knowing that they’ll have a job at the end of the year,” he said. That won’t change “until I know what’s going on in Tremont.”

Asked about whether residents can expect the full 30 hours of coverage on a regular basis, Kane responded, “I have no idea.” Guaranteeing 30 hours each week would require existing deputies to work overtime, which would tax the department’s limited overtime budget, he explained. There also are training requirements and vacations that leave the department shorthanded, he added.

The $60 per hour is $1 more per hour than in the contract for last year. The increase is to help cover increases in wages and benefits in the union contract between deputies and the sheriff’s department.

Other provisions of the contract state that the sheriff’s department will provide the service as long as the agency “can locate a suitable deputy willing to be assigned to the town” and that the agreement can be terminated by either party with 30 days written notice.

On Tuesday, selectmen voted, without comment, to have Reed sign the contract. There was one question, from resident John Buckwalter, who asked if a six-month contract might be more appropriate given the upcoming May town meeting vote on whether to contract with the town of Southwest Harbor for police protection.

Chairman Kathi Thurston explained that the wording of the warrant article specifically states that, if approved, the contract with Southwest Harbor would begin Jan. 1, 2018. Selectmen are bound by the wording of the petition, she said. “We can’t change that.”

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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