Knox County Budget Committee reviews airport, sheriff and probate

By George Chappell | Nov 09, 2012

Rockland — Knox County budget officials continued their review Nov. 8 of the proposed $6.9 million 2013 county budget, which is up 9 percent from last year.

County Administrator Andrew Hart attributed the increase to the first-year principal and interest payment of $237,354 on the $2.5 million bond for renovating the public safety building at 301 Park St. in Rockland. That building will house the sheriff's office, Emergency Management Agency, and county dispatch office once renovations are done.

The financing rate on the bond is 1.866 percent and is expected to cost $25,000 in interest over the 15-year life of the bond, Hart said.

The Nov. 8 budget review consisted of requests from Knox-Lincoln County Extension, Knox-Lincoln County Soil & Water Conservation District, Time & Tide RC & D, Knox County Probate Office, Knox County Airport and Knox County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Division.

Jan MacDonald and Nadine Reimer presented a Knox-Lincoln County Cooperative Extension Service budget item of $55,562, showing a 2-percent increase over last year’s request. The committee and commission gave the proposal preliminary approval.

Mark Hedrich, chairman of the board of Knox-Lincoln Soil & Water Conservation District, asked for $25,143, which was more than the $19,810 recommended by the county administrator. Hedrich said the additional money reflected the new office rental on Route 90. Budget Committee Chairman Robert Duke Jr. said he was in favor of the $25,143 for K-L Soil & Water.

Time & Tide RC & D, a grassroots nonprofit organization established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ran into difficulty with its request when presenter Vance Wells did not explain the budget thoroughly and the budget committee asked for a “definition of what the funds are for.” Wells said he would ask someone else from his office to attend the next meeting and explain the budget request in detail.

In other business, Judge of Probate Carol R. Emery and Registrar of Probate Elaine D. Hallett, made a pitch for the $227,520 probate spending package.

Emery explained that probate judges have worked on weekends to complete an online filing system. All probate records will be stored on computers all across the country, she said.

The four-person department projects $130,600 in salaries and wages, and $74,768 in benefits. Revenues totaled $85,500 for a net budget of $142,020.

Jeffrey Northgraves, manager of the six-employee Knox County Airport in Owls Head, said the airport has $505,171 in expenditures but brings in $409,075 in revenues for a net budget line of $96,096, a 12-percent decrease from last year’s package.

Revenues include money from the three airlines serving the airport, Downeast Air, Penobscot Island Air, and Cape Air, which is the daily travel service to and from Boston, Mass., and the new restaurant, Aviary Café.

There are also two car rental services, and two runway links to the Owls Head Transportation Museum nearby, to bring in money. Parking fees for aircraft and vehicles add to the revenues, Northgraves said.

Northgraves said the airport is eligible for up to $1 million in federal grants for safety and improvements. “That does not mean we get a million dollars, but that we are eligible for it,” he said.

“The grant money is federal money, and any time I can get a grant that will bring a $1 million into Maine that will help keep George Hall’s construction trucks running, that benefits us all,” he said, referring to a local contractor who does work at the airport.

Duke pointed out that one of the employees had reached his limit in the county’s payroll system.

“He has capped out,” Duke said.

Northgraves defended that employee’s payroll arrangement, saying that the county’s new compensation package approved last year allowed him to pay a stipend when an employee had reached his or her limit.

In a straw vote at the end of the presentation, Duke cast the sole opposing tally.

Sheriff Donna Dennison and Chief Deputy Tim Carroll of the sheriff’s office wrapped up the evening of budget talks with the county’s biggest net budget of $1,708,590.

In a department that stretches from Washington to Port Clyde, and the islands in the Bay, with 25 vehicles running on an annual budget of $70,000 for gas, the Sheriff’s Office Patrol Division has 21 employees. The annual payroll is $1,230,701, up 7 percent from the previous year, and benefits are $457,516, up 12 percent.

Expenditures total $1,964,112, while revenues bring in $255,522.

The budget committee has been taking straw votes on each of the items and plans to take a final straw vote Nov. 20, unless the panel decides to have another meeting on Nov. 29, which would not be a binding vote.

The final vote that takes place after the public hearing is still up in the air, and could take place on Dec. 11 or Dec. 18.

Courier Publications reporter George Chappell can be reached by phone at 207-594-4401, ext. 117, or by email at gchappell@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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