SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Southwest Harbor police officers could be patrolling Tremont as of New Year’s Day if selectmen in that neighboring municipality accept a proposal from Town Manager Don Lagrange.
Lagrange is proposing that the Southwest Harbor Police Department provide around-the-clock law enforcement for Tremont.
“We’ll treat Tremont and Southwest Harbor as one package,” Lagrange said Monday.
Tremont Town Manager Dana Reed said he has not reviewed the proposal fully but expects it to be on the agenda for discussion at a Dec. 19 selectmen’s meeting.
Tremont has no police department and currently contracts with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office for 30 hours of exclusive coverage each week. When a contract deputy is not in town, coverage is divided between the sheriff’s department and Maine State Police, depending on which agency has that coverage “slot” at the time. As a result, the response time to emergencies is often lengthy, which was a factor in the Tremont selectmen’s October decision to ask Southwest Harbor if the town would be interested in providing police protection in Tremont.
In November, selectmen in Southwest Harbor agreed to have Lagrange and police Chief Alan Brown submit a proposal.
As proposed, Southwest Harbor police would respond to criminal complaints and civil infractions, and enforce Tremont’s town ordinances. The police department also would act at Tremont’s animal control officer.
Coverage would be full-time with one officer assigned to Tremont when two officers are on duty, and when only one officer is on duty, “patrols will still be expected and calls for service answered,” according to the proposal.
The cost of providing the service is more than being paid to the sheriff’s department but not significantly so. Under this year’s contract with the sheriff’s department, Tremont is paying $59 per hour, or about $92,000 annually, for the 30 hours of exclusive coverage. That annual contract expires on Dec. 31. Reed said the sheriff’s department is unable to commit to an hourly rate until union negotiations are completed, but that Chief Deputy Pat Kane has indicated the rate will be about the same as for this year.
Southwest Harbor is proposing a three-year contract, which Lagrange maintains is necessary for the town to offer the coverage. The first year of the contract would cost $101,500 or $9,500 more than the sheriff’s contract. The cost would increase to $103,804 and $106,316 for the second and third years, respectively.
Lagrange said a new officer would be hired and another police cruiser purchased in order to fully offer the service. Still, he acknowledged, the Southwest Harbor Police Department is prepared to begin covering Tremont as of the first of the year, the day after the sheriff’s contract expires.