A county commission

Recent turnover and controversy in the administration of Hancock County government has prompted some members of the Acadia Area League of Towns to suggest the time is right to form a charter commission.

The county currently operates under state law that guides how elections for three part-time county commissioners, charged with managing the county affairs, and various department heads such as treasure, sheriff, judge of probate and others, are filled.

Since that original structure was put in place, Hancock County government has expanded over recent decades. It now includes a regional public safety communications facility, busy registry of deeds and probate offices and a commercial airport. It also manages robust operations at the county jail and courthouse.

The proposed county budget is more than $8 million, with more than $5 million of that coming from municipal property taxes. Those taxes come primarily from Ellsworth, Bucksport, Mount Desert, Bar Harbor and the other communities that make up the Acadia Area League of Towns.

To help manage the county’s affairs, in recent years, the part-time commissioners have employed a county administrator.

But when elected officials must report to an appointed county administrator on administrative and financial matters, confusion and conflict can, and have, become problems. Basically, these elected officials who depend on voters for their authority, chafe under the constraints of a budget chain of command.

Considering the expanded responsibilities of county government and the growth of its budget, this may be an appropriate time to take a broad look at how best to oversee and manage the workings of Hancock County government.

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