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Penobscot County Commissioners’ Meeting Minutes June 6th, 2017 #2141
9:00 AM Commissioners Peter Baldacci, Tom Davis, and Laura Sanborn. 50°
Approval of Minutes-
• Commissioner Davis made a motion to approve the May 30th, 2017 minutes. Commissioner Sanborn seconded the motion. Vote to approve passed 3-0.
Sheriff’s Department Update-
• Sheriff Troy Morton stated that today’s jail population is 160 (130 males, 30 females with 33 boarded out to other county jails. The jail is housing one federal inmate and there are 69 inmates in Pre-Trial Services.
• Troy presented two bail forfeitures cases for the Commissioners to approve: State of Maine vs. Adam Hawthorne for $ 988 and the State of Maine vs. Chad St. Pierre for $ 1,080. Commissioner Sanborn motioned to approve both forfeitures. Commissioner Davis seconded the motion. Vote to approve passed 3-0.
• Sheriff Morton noted that with recent promotions and retirements within the Sheriff’s Department, they have two open patrol positions. The department is processing and reviewing applicants for these positions.
• Sheriff explained that the number of calls that department’s deputies have responded to in recent weeks has increased significantly. Troy stated that the Town of Patten contacted him for information of possibly having the county perform supplemental law enforcement services. He commented that the Patten area has recently experienced a high number of vandalisms and break-ins. The town asked if the county would be able to provide a joint service to Patten and Stacyville. Troy explained that typically the department does not provide supplemental services to multiple towns under the same contract. However considering the area and circumstances, he feels it would work to service both towns under one contract. Patten will be holding a town meeting in the near future to discuss the possibility.
• The department held a press conference on the Rise Program (Vivitrol Drug Treatment Initiative) which will begin its program services at the beginning of July. Troy stated that the program has begun its screening and orientation processes. The University of Maine, Volunteer Literacy of Maine, and Adult Education spoke at the press conference and communicated the amount of success they have seen working with our jail’s inmates. Sheriff spoke of one inmate who recently received their GED with the help of the jail’s adult ed. and Literacy volunteer’s tutelage. Sheriff hopes to intertwine these programs with the Rise initiative to help meet the diverse needs of our jail’s inmates.
• Troy commented that the jail is down six employees (three medical leaves and three openings). He stated that jails around the state are experiencing the same hiring and retention issues. Troy was informed that Knox County was forced to close down one of the jail pods due a lack of employees to oversee the jail population. Troy mentioned that even with recently promoting part-time employees to full, the jail is having serious problems of filling shifts. Sheriff has spoken to the union in attempts to find ways to aid in scheduling officers to help fill holes. There are three potential new hires completing officer training, and one federal officer who is interested in working at the jail. Administrator Bill Collins stated he had recently been in contact with Union Rep. Jim Mackie who asked how many officers our jail could take. Sheriff Morton responded that the jail could take ten new hires easily. Sheriff Morton also referenced that he has been in touch with the Union in case any officers in surrounding county jails wish to transfer and commute to our jail.
• Troy reminded the Commissioners of the new position changes/hires in the department: Bill Birch – Chief Deputy, Jim Ellis – Patrol Lieutenant, William Sheehan – Patrol Sergeant, and Ray Goodspeed - Training Sergeant replacing the retiring training Sergeant Richard Harburger. Troy explained that the titles of the department’s detectives and sergeants have been recently modified to more accurately designate rank. Troy stated that for years certain positions had the title of sergeant but did not have any supervisory responsibilities. The changes did not alter the position’s contracts, change their respective responsibilities, or require the union to sign off on the title modifications.
Jail Budget Presentation-
• Troy began by stating that he is very concerned how to proceed with the jail’s budget if the state does not at least match the previous year’s funding and/or provide last year’s amount plus the combined budgeted shortfall that nine of Maine’s county jails are facing. He feels that our county’s jail budget is as lean as it can be. There may be areas that the jail can trim a few thousand dollars but not come anywhere near reducing the projected $953,691 deficit the 2018 budget reveals. Troy explained that by trimming costs in some areas it will then simply create more expenses in others. For example if the county doesn’t board out inmates, we will take on more costs to house and monitor the additional population. Sheriff reiterated that the county has tried everything possible to make the budget to reduce costs and that this budget reflects the true financial needs of the facility.
• Finance Director Judy Alexander, Lieutenant Keith Hotaling, and Sheriff Morton then presented the Jail’s 2018 Budget. Commissioner Baldacci asked why the 2017 revenue figure was close to $1 million less ($5.14 million) than the budgeted ($6.18 million) 2017 amount. Judy explained the 2017 figure of $5.14 million was the year to date dollar amount as of 4/30/17, thus missing the last two months’ worth of revenue for the jail’s fiscal year (July 1st to June 30th).
• Treasurer Dan Tremble asked if this budget needs to go before the budget committee. Administrator Bill Collins responded that he recommends the budget go before the committee but to keep in mind this budget goes into effect for the jail July 1st. Dan replied that he and Judy had discussed with the Commissioners shifting the jail’s budget to match the county’s financial calendar year. Judy reminded the Commissioners that shifting the jail’s budget would not cause the county induce an 18 month tax burden on the county’s municipal tax bills. Bill noted that he has no problem with matching the jail’s fiscal to that of the county’s calendar, however he added that the state funding is given on a fiscal year basis. He is then concerned if issues will arise when the two financial periods are married together. Judy responded that the county receives State funding on a calendar basis though, and doesn’t foresee any issues on that end with the transition. Judy is concerned about the county’s cash flow position for July and August if the State doesn’t include funding for the jail, since we plan on those monies to be in our accounts. Commissioner Sanborn stressed the importance of properly informing our State Representatives of this funding crisis so they can work towards adequately funding Maine’s County jails in the upcoming State budget.
• Commissioner Davis expressed grave concern in passing the current budget since the budget already reflects operating at a $953,691 shortfall with the condition that the jail receives the same amount of state funding as last year. Based on recent news in Augusta, Governor LePage included no plans of providing any funding for county jails which would increase our county’s estimated shortfall to roughly $2.5 million dollars (and this includes raising local property tax funding 3% for the jail). Commissioner Davis commented that he is very disappointed with the lack of jail funding and support from our State. He explained the county has no way of raising these monies through property taxes; the jail will have no other option but to take drastic steps in how it operates. Commissioner Baldacci suggested that the Sheriff should still explain the budget but the Commissioners will have to withhold approval until more concrete information comes forth in regards to state funding. Bill explained what the impact would be to the county’s largest two cities Bangor and Brewer if the jail receives no state funding. If you include the 3% raise in property taxes allowable by law for jail funding and then fund the potential $2.5 million dollar shortfall (approximately $2.7 million total) through property taxes, Bangor would be responsible for an additional tax burden of $646,924 and Brewer $188,686. Commissioner Davis reiterated the only solution that the Commissioner are allowed to implement is to raise jail funding through property taxes by 3%, which still leaves a $2.5 million dollar shortfall. Bill added that even if the county no longer boarded out inmates, it would only trim $400,000 of the potential $2.5 million deficit.
• The Sheriff proceeded to highlight certain areas of the budget that he believed were important to share with the Commissioners.
Revenue – Sheriff Morton explained that the planned revenue for boarding federal inmates was dropped significantly from the previous year’s budget (2018-$75,000 vs 2017-$200,000) due to the lack of federal inmates the jail has been housing.
Commissioner Baldacci asked what the total amount of funding the budget included in regards to State funding. Bill and Judy answered that the budget includes the same figure that was funded by the state in last year’s budget ($1.5 million) with hopes that legislation will fund that amount plus the additional money to cover all of State’s county jails’ planned budgeted shortfalls. Bill stated the only known source of funds available to the county is property tax funding at the maximum 3% allowable by law (2018-$6,374,152 vs 2017-$6,188,142).
Expenses – Commissioner Baldacci asked Troy if there are any significant staffing changes for the budget. Troy noted that as he requested previously during the year he has promoted some part-time corrections officers to full-time to help retain staff and be compliant with the Affordable Care Act benefits requirements. Sheriff explained that the department previously had to cut the hours worked for many part-time employees to be compliant with the ACA, which in turn hurt the jail retaining many of those employees.
Commissioner Baldacci noted that the budget plans for $400,000 in boarding cost in 2018. Keith explained that the figure was estimated by extrapolating the county’s boarding costs over the last five months to project the 2018 figure. Sheriff explained that they have budgeted an additional $25,000 ($775,000 total) in medical costs to help treat the vast amount of inmates that arrive with serious health and substance abuse conditions.
Troy noted that one the jail’s counseling services is currently out to bid and he expects the new contract to be more based on the increased time of services the bid was spec’d out for (2018-$120,000 vs 2017-$105,000 total budgeted amounts).
Judy Harrison of the Bangor Daily News asked if the jail had budgeted any additional funds to cover the Vivitrol – Rise Program. Commissioner Baldacci and Troy explained that the program (Services and Medication) is entirely funded through grants so no funds will be taken out of the jail budget for the service. Troy commented that he hopes Courts and the DA’s office will be more lenient in sentencings where the jail now has a program to help rehabilitate inmates of their drug addictions.
Sheriff stated the buildings and maintenance budget has remained relatively the same amount. He is very impressed that based on the high influx of prisoners the jail has been housing that the food budget has seen very modest increases to its budget (2018-$285,000 vs. 2017-$275,000). Troy commended the head chef and the jail’s food vendors for help in keeping those expenses down.
Troy noted significant increases in the jail’s workers comp insurance premiums. The 2018 was budgeted for $324,140 versus 2017’s amount of $227,384 and a $7,850 increase for the Community Corrections’ portion of workers comp insurance. Troy asked Judy if she could change the classification of the account “CCA Counseling Services” to be “Pre-Trial.” Sheriff explained that some inmates when out of Pre-Trial Services are able to pay for the service. Thus the budgeted amount of $100,000 may be high for that account.
Sheriff stated when the jail exceeds their budget, the only available funds have been paid out of the jail’s capital account. His concern is the capital account is becoming so depleted he worries that if and when a substantial building or equipment repair is needed there will be no monies.
Bill then presented a spreadsheet summarizing the budgeted shortfall figures for all of Maine’s County Jails. Nine of the fifteen county jails projected a budget deficit totaling approximately $3.8 million combined.
Commissioner Baldacci stated that if the jail does not receive adequate State funding, we will have to look at how to best manage an overcrowded jail or look further into release programs that have been implemented at the state prison level. Troy responded that he spoke with the Governor’s Office in regards to early release programs. Our jail consists on average 70% Pre-Trial inmates and 30% sentenced inmates. Many of the 70% Pre-Trial inmates are parole violators who are awaiting additional sentences. Thus he can’t implement or utilize early release programs for a majority of the jail population when only the minority of the prisoners have sentences eligible for release. Sheriff explained that for the 30% of sentenced inmates that we do house, we already offer early release programs through inmate worker initiatives, good behavior incentives, and home confinement monitoring releases. If the jail had a larger percentage of sentenced victims, Troy added we could be creative in finding new outlets for more early release programs.
• Bill stated that the general public needs to know how dire the funding situation is or would be (without state money). Sheriff commented that he has reached out to many of the county’s local Chiefs of Police and informed them of the situation. Troy explained one way the jail could save money is eliminating the jail’s central booking office. This however would put a lot of stress and costs back onto local towns as they would have to provide booking services for their respective police departments themselves. Commissioner Davis stated the county shouldn’t penalize localities for the lack of state funding, considering the cost of that booking service would be paid for through local tax payers regardless (either through local or county taxes). Commissioner Baldacci echoed that the localities didn’t create this problem thus the county should put pressure on the state and court system and not penalize local tax payers. Localities are also already fighting state revenue sharing deductions and increases in education costs, so any efforts to deflect an added burden to local taxpayers should be taken. Commissioner Baldacci noted it may come down to refusing to accept inmates from courts that the county would not be able to pay for.
• Sheriff concluded that in overlooking the budget there are costs for mental health services, health care, pre-trial services that should not be cut. Sheriff explained if Pre-Trial services were cut out of the jail’s budget, this would result in the need to house more inmates. As of today, 69 inmates were in Pre-Trial services. Sheriff stated that the cost to house 69 more inmates in the jail, would significantly outweigh the cost of cutting this service.
• Administrator Bill Collins reminded the Commissioners and Sheriff that the opening of the RFP for the jail’s mental health services will be held at next week’s Commissioners’ meeting.
• Treasurer Dan Tremble informed Troy that the sewer and utilities work on Hammond Street will be shifted from nights to days.
• Bill presented that Scott Ferguson informed him that county jails need to submit their budgets into the CRAS System. Finance Director Judy Alexander will be attending a training session on the system on June 14th.
• Bill was recently contacted by Maine PERS in regards to the recent change for the county’s patrol Deputies retirement plan. The tentative dates for the informational sessions are June 15th and 16th in the 3rd floor of the count main building. Bill has informed Patrol Lt. Jim Ellis of the meetings for any Deputies who wish to attend.
• Bill attended the before mentioned Rise Program press conference that the Sheriff’s department held last week. Bill commended the professionalism and the commitment to the jail and its inmates that The University of Maine, Volunteer Literacy of Maine, and Adult Education programs have displayed.
• Bill was contacted by Charles Newton of the Charlotte White Center who requested if our county had any corrections funds to pay for services the Center provides for our inmates. Bill asked Charles to report back how many of our county’s inmates they provide their services to. Sheriff Morton felt that those payments should not come out of our jail’s corrections’ budgets, but funded via alternative sources.
• Last week VOYA presented rate changes to the fixed account that is part of the county’s deferred compensation program. Bill mentioned that a few county’s employees that attended the session have asked if the Commissioners would pursue legal action in an attempt to disallow VOYA freezing new contributions to the 4 % fixed rate fund. Commissioner Baldacci expressed he feels VOYA has not breached its’ contract and that any money invested in legal counsel would yield no beneficial results, especially considering that VOYA is honoring any old and current funds that are currently in the 4% account.
• The District Attorney Office recently met with Bill and have asked if the county could provide additional office space for upcoming new hires to their department.
• Bill stated that the county’s financial audit is in progress. Bill added that Marcia McInnis of the State’s UT department issued a complaint in regards to the labeling of a page in the county’s audit report. Bill, Judy, and the auditors cannot see where the labeling is in error, but Judy was going to dig further into the complaint and respond back to Marcia.
• UT Department Head Barbara Veilleux informed Bill that the Solid Waste Collection service in Argyle & Greenfield has gone out to bid. The current vendor is selling their business but will honor the current contract until the new bid process is complete. Commissioner Davis asked if the current vendor has sent legal notification that they wish to not continue as a vendor. Bill responded that he will ask Barbara and report back with any pertinent details.
• In next week’s Commissioners’ Meeting PRCC Department Head Chad LaBree wishes to introduce Norm Boucher whom the county recently hired for radio consultant work for the dispatch center. Chad informed Bill that Mr. Boucher will invoice the county for the work upon completion of the project.
• The fact-finding meeting for PRCC’s labor contract has been scheduled for July 19th at 9:30 am. The participants will be John Sheldon Esq., Charles Priest Esq., and Patricia Dunn Esq.
• Finance Director Judy Alexander presented that the county currently has $2.3 million dollars remaining in the county’s current TAN account. As of this date last year the county’s previous year’s TAN balance was $2.675 million. Judy noted that last year the county paid a considerable amount of money towards a new service contract for PRCC at the end of June that we will not have to pay this year. Thus as long as State funds the jail properly she is not overly concerned with the TAN Balance. The State however usually sends out all of the corrections funding in July, thus if the county does not receive any money she would be very concerned of the county cash flow position in the immediate future.
• The county will be holding a health fair on June 21st open for all county employees to attend. Bill explained the fair will be conducting free biometric screenings for employees if at least 30 individuals sign up
• Bill informed the Commissioners in last week’s meeting that some employees have not received bills for the respective portion of their Health Insurance deductible. Cigna Representative Mark Gagne contacted Bill and is working on resolving the issue soon.
• Bill commented that a county employee experienced a health issue while on campus. The employee is doing fine now.
• Bill stated that he will be on vacation from Thursday through the end of next week. Commissioner Baldacci noted that he will not be attending an MCCA meeting next Wednesday.
• Maintenance Department Head Cap Ayer and Building Mechanic Terry Sullivan requested if the Commissioners would approve going out to bid for an architect to draw up plans for the upcoming renovation project located on the 3rd floor of county’s main building’s court room and the surrounding offices. As discussed in previous Commissioners’ Meetings, the proposed plan would move the PRCC dispatch center into the 3rd floor into the old court room. PRCC Director Chad LaBree and Administrative Assistant Monica McKay would then move their offices into two of the vacant offices next to the court room. This would allow Barbara Veilleux and George Buswell of the Unorganized Territory Department to move into Chad and Monica respective offices allowing the future HR hire to utilize the UT’s office on the first floor. The current space utilized by the dispatch center would then transition into a PRCC training and County conference room. Cap and Terry explained that based on the extensiveness of the remodel (insulation, wiring, lights, fire alarms, voice & data lines, ceiling repairs, hvac, etc.), they would feel more comfortable for an architect to draw up the remodel so that all safety codes will be met when they go before the City of Bangor for a permit. Commissioner Davis questioned if a permit would be needed for the project. Bill and Cap answered that the remodel covers a 1,000 square foot space and a permit would be needed. Commissioner Baldacci suggested that Terry and Cap draw up plans for the remodel based on the current blue prints that the county has on the space, then we can submit those plans to whomever the county awards the remodel bid. The job of ensuring that all safety and building codes are met, in addition to getting the proper building permits, would then rest entirely on the contractor. Cap and Terry said they would sketch out the details of the remodel and would report back to the Commissioners. Cap asked the Commissioners if they planned on him being the General Contractor for the project or hire an outside contractor. Commissioner Davis said the decision would be dependent on the details and costs of the bids. The Commissioners suggested that they should review the space with Cap and Terry. They would then have a better idea of the space’s needs and be able to give input of how much Cap and Terry’s involvement in the project should be.
• Christopher Swift, a resident of Woodville, asked what the county’s relationship was with the Air National Guard in reference to the 6,800 acre military training facility that is being constructed in parts of Woodville and the county’s Unorganized Territory T2 R9 NWP. Commissioner Baldacci and Sanborn responded they believe the county has received a notice that they were going to construct the site, but the Commissioners have no formalized relationship with the facility. Christopher stated he is inquiring on behalf of the town since all of Woodville’s Selectmen recently resigned. Thus he is trying to get information on the project so that the upcoming elected selectmen can be brought up to speed on the development of the project. Chris asked if the county were to enter into a more formalized relationship with the project would we work with Woodville and communicate any decisions made related to the project. Commissioner Baldacci and Bill suggested that Chris speak to UT Director Barbara Veilleux so that the new selectmen can have a point of contact. We will work with the Town to provide any information pertinent to the training facility. Chris noted that the next selectmen’s meeting will be held June 29th. Commissioner Sanborn noted that she will try to attend the meeting on behalf of the county. She then directed Chris to make contact with the Land Use Commission out of Millinocket for more information on the site. Chris thanked the Commissioners for their time and information.
Administrative Update continued-
• Payroll Warrant to be approved for: $ 212,994.85
• Accounts Payable Warrant to be approved for : $ 79,683.19
• Unorganized Territory Warrant to be approved for: None
• Payroll change notice signed for: Hired Full-Time – Brian Parent. Re-Hired Part-Time - Marcella Ouellette. Miscellaneous – William Birch, William Sheehan, Forest Sanborn, and Carole Starling.
• Compensation notice signed for: Tyler Thompson - 0.75 Hours
Meeting Adjourned- The meeting was adjourned at 10:30 am with no further business on the agenda.
Penobscot County Administrator
Peter K. Baldacci, Chairman
Laura J. Sanborn, Commissioner
Thomas J. Davis, Jr., Commissioner