SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The town could soon provide law enforcement protection to neighboring Tremont. Selectmen here last week agreed to have the town manager and police chief prepare a proposal for consideration by Tremont officials.
Town Manager Don Lagrange said Wednesday that he expects to have a proposal ready by early next week. That proposal will look much different than the annual contract Tremont has with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office for 30 hours of exclusive coverage per week.
In October, Tremont selectmen voted to ask Southwest Harbor officials if they would be interested in submitting a proposal. Selectmen in Southwest Harbor gave the go-ahead by consensus at their Nov. 22 meeting.
Although details of providing the coverage and the cost still have to be worked out, Lagrange said the proposal would be for 24-hour, seven-days-a-week coverage, not 30 hours as with the sheriff’s contract.
Tremont’s annual contract with the sheriff expires Dec. 31. The sheriff’s department is to submit a new contract for consideration but has not yet done so, Tremont Town Manager Dana Reed said Tuesday. Under this year’s contract, the town pays $59 per hour, or about $92,000 annually, for 30 hours of exclusive coverage. When a deputy is not patrolling the town as part of the contract, law enforcement duties are split between the sheriff’s department and Maine State Police, depending on which agency has that particular “slot” for the day.
Driving Tremont’s decision to seek a proposal from Southwest Harbor is the fact that considerable time can elapse before a deputy or trooper can respond to emergencies when a contract deputy is not in town. During a recent local domestic violence incident, the closest available trooper was in Dedham.
Although Lagrange has not established the cost of providing the service, he did say that it will be more than what Tremont pays the sheriff’s department. If Tremont agrees to the proposal, Southwest Harbor would need to hire an additional officer and purchase another police cruiser, Lagrange said.
Lagrange said the town would require Tremont to enter into a three-year contract. “We can’t afford to do this on a one-year basis,” he said.
Another consideration is providing the service to Tremont without any disruption to law enforcement activities in Southwest Harbor.
“I’m not going to sacrifice Southwest Harbor and give something away,” Lagrange said.
Lagrange is optimistic that his town can begin covering Tremont on the first of the year.
“In the beginning, we’ll be stretching ourselves,” he said, adding that the police department has provided exemplary service in the past despite being short-staffed.