Hahn, Moore take selectmen votes

Thomaston votes to keep police department

Town Meeting June 12
By Beth A. Birmingham | Jun 11, 2019
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Elizabeth Smith of Cushing holds a sign in support of maintaining the Thomaston Police Department as voting takes place at the American Legion Hall June 11. The voters agreed with a 487 to 192 tally in favor of keeping its policing local.

Thomaston — Thomaston residents showed their sign of support at the polls June 11 for maintaining their local police department by overwhelmingly casting a "no" vote to disband and seek services from the Knox County Sheriff's Department by a 487 to 192 margin.

“It’s exciting to know the majority of the citizens are backing the department,” Police Chief Tim Hoppe said June 12, adding, “Now we can move onward and upward and rebuild.”

At the June 10 Board of Selectmen’s meeting, Hoppe spoke one last time and noted it all comes down to whether the citizens want to have control. "Whatever the people vote, I'm good with," he said.

And obviously the townspeople voiced their opinion.

The next hurdle is the municipal budget and town meeting June 12.

According to former Town Manager Valmore Blastow Jr. the budget voters will be looking at includes the approval of the police department. However, at the June 10 meeting of the selectmen Architect John Hansen said the Lura Libby renovation bids had all come in over expectations.

Voters had approved last November to borrow $1.1 million to finance the renovations and related costs of the relocation of the municipal offices.

"In that budget was included the police department," Budget Committee member Charlie Grover said, noting now it is listed as an alternate cost of $298,000 — on top of the lowest base bid from Penobscot Co. of $1,012,308

Grover said more importantly, the proposal that was voted on included Hansen's fee of $94,000 and a contingency of 10 percent of the total bid.

"Now the total package we're looking at is $1,536,000 — considerably higher than what we voted," Grover said.

He noted that figure does not include interest on the original bond, which is $594,000, on top of the $1.1 million.

"If we should finance the new deal, the interest on that would be $829,000 — these are big numbers, folks," he said, explaining the taxpayers are looking at a 14-percent increase for the school and the town combined. "So we've got to think," he added.

The only other wild card is in the hands of union negotiators for the Police Department and Public Works, who have yet to accept an offer from the town.

In the contested race to fill two Board of Selectmen seats, incumbent Bill Hahn and newcomer Sandra Moore were approved in a close race. Hahn received 333 votes, Moore had 309 — just 12 votes more than challenger Patricia Hubbard — and Charlie Frattini received 172. Selectman Peter McCrea did not seek reelection.

For Board of Assessors, Scott Johnson ran unopposed and received 448 votes, with 195 left blank. Joan Linscott did not seek reelection. All are three-year terms.

An 11th hour effort to clarify what the town would get for service if the vote was in favor of disbanding the police department was seen by Knox County Sheriff Tim Carroll at the June 10 meeting.

"Still the night before the vote, nobody knows what the town will get for services," Carroll said.

"A contract is much more than a dollar figure," Carroll said, explaining although he and Chief Deputy Patrick Polky had been present at several meetings throughout the past six months, they were not given the opportunity to explain what services Knox County Sheriff would provide for the day-to-day operations, should voters have approved disbanding the department.

He said he attempted six times in writing and twice at meetings to discuss with town officials what exactly Thomaston would get by contracting with the Sheriff's Office.

An informational meeting was held April 29 with several citizens voicing concerns and support for maintaining the current Police Department, and Carroll said he supports Hoppe in his efforts of making a functioning police department.

Carroll said the conversation on the wants and desires of the Thomaston citizens was never had, and he felt compelled to at least bring it up.

It was recommended that the board take the article off the ballot, because the only thing they have been provided are numbers.

"How can we 'the people' make a decision about this very important thing in this town without the right information?" resident Noreen Mullaney asked, adding, "And you, the board, haven't given us that information that we need."

The conversation heated up when Chairman Peter Lammert said it cannot be taken off the ballot, and the board was accused of having their own agenda by allowing the vote to take place without considering meeting with the Sheriff to gather more details.

The contract presented to the board was a draft contract for one year at a cost of $450,000 to have four dedicated Knox County Sheriff's officers patrol Thomaston. The difference between that and having a fully-functioning local police department is 1.3 percent, according the Assessor Dave Martucci.

Included in the municipal budget are figures for the police department to include family health coverage, which has been said to be a big deterrent of keeping officers. Knox County officers pay 20 percent for their family coverage.

Town Meeting is set for 7 p.m. June 12 at the American Legion Hall.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@villagesoup.com.

Thomaston resident Luann Hyler, left, and neighbor Earl Sutherland as they cast their ballots in Thomaston June 11 while Peter Lammert looks on. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Town Clerk Kara George, left, helps count the ballots after closing time at the polls June 11. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Sheriff Tim Carroll, center, makes a statement during the June 10 Board of Selectmen's meeting in Thomaston -- the night before residents were to vote on whether or not to disband its town's Police Department. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.