City Voices Concern with County Budget Proposal

By Kaileigh Deacon

 

On Thursday night, the city council reacted to the County Commissioner’s proposed budget, which would involve a 9% increase to the budget over last year. The proposed increase, if it goes forward, would result in a total 45.5% increase to the budget over the course of 8 years, figuring to a 6% increase every year. City Manager Jim Porter stated that in the same 8-year period, beginning in 2011, the population of Washington County has been steadily declining. The increase in the county commissioner’s budget would include the hiring of four new deputies to the Sheriff’s office.

“The commissioners in Machias are making decisions with little regard for the citizens that are just making ends meet, and they are the ones that need the representation the most,” Councilor Mike Sherrard said, reading from a two-page statement he had prepared to express his thoughts on the situation. “The fact is this is not a manpower problem, much less a policing problem. This is, for lack of a better word, a punishment problem.” Sherrard said the DA, judge and the State of Maine needed to “keep up their end of the bargain” in incarcerating repeat offenders to free law enforcement to police other crimes.

“To me, they should take a chapter out of the book of the way our police department is operating and how efficient they are, and what they’ve been able to accomplish with a smaller crew than they’ve had in the past,” said Councilor Artie Mingo. 

In response to this, the City Council of Calais has decided to draft a letter voicing their concern and feelings toward the County Commissioner’s proposed budget increase.  City manager Jim Porter will work on drafting a letter to be sent to the papers regarding the issue and bring it back to the next meeting for council approval and sign off. 

During roundtable discussion on the topic, the members of the public spoke in support of the letter. Speaking as a citizen, Crystal Gallina stated that we need our local departments and that the Sheriff’s Department should be doing more to support local departments instead of trying to take away from towns that are trying to do it themselves. 

These proposed increases to the Sheriff’s budget with the addition of personnel comes as the Governor is closing Down East Correctional facility and looking into the possibility of closing five county jails including Washington County. 

The council looked at the request for four tax & sewer acquired properties to arrange payment plans for outstanding balances. Each of the four properties were considered individually. One property was tabled until the next meeting and the three other payment plans were accepted. The voting in favor was unanimous except in two cases where Councilor Sherrard voted against accepting the payment plans on the grounds that the properties were not the residences of the owners and thus had an income-generating nature.  All accounts not made whole by April 1 will have the new year’s taxes added to them. 

After all the rain and melting from the storms, there was an area of Calais Avenue by the ball field that flooded. There is an issue with the drain under the property and the damage needs to be assessed. A $5,000 expenditure from the Storm Drain Maintenance Reserve Fund was authorized.

On February 22 at 5:00 p.m. there will be an International Festival Committee meeting. The meeting starts the discussion for this year’s festival week as well as work on getting more volunteers to make the festival happen. 

The next City Council meeting will be held on February 22 at 6:00 p.m. with the festival meeting held prior.