Towns renew sharing agreement for police

By Dick Broom and Becky Pritchard

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MOUNT DESERT ISLAND — The agreement under which Bar Harbor and Mount Desert share a police chief and law enforcement services has been renewed for another two years.

The Mount Desert Board of Selectmen approved the renewal without discussion Monday night. The Bar Harbor Town Council added its approval Tuesday night.

The two towns originally agreed to share a police chief in 2013. Since then, Chief Jim Willis and the two town managers, with the approval of the town boards, have expanded the agreement to include a consolidation of a number of functions. For example, police officers hired by one town routinely patrol and respond to calls in the other town.

Under the new agreement, Willis plans to continue the integration of information technology, study the feasibility of centralizing employment and facility consolidation and conduct “strategic planning to assist with the future planning for integrating the [police] agencies to a unified agency providing services to both communities.”

Willis noted in the updated goals of the agreement that he will continue to study the feasibility of consolidating dispatch services with Southwest Harbor as well as Mount Desert and Bar Harbor. Currently the three towns each provide separate dispatch services.

Willis said he also wants to continue working to equalize pay for employees of the two police departments in the interest of fairness and maintaining good morale.

“We have many people doing the exact same jobs in both towns and all getting paid something different,” he told the Mount Desert selectmen. “It’s really just a by-product of two different pay systems. So, as we work through budgeting, we’ll be presenting some ideas.”

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