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Penobscot County Commissioners’ Meeting Minutes August 1st, 2017 #2148
9:00 AM Commissioners Peter Baldacci, Tom Davis, and Laura Sanborn. 70°
Approval of Minutes-
• Commissioner Davis made a motion to approve the July 18th and 25th, 2017 minutes. Commissioner Sanborn seconded the motion. Vote to approve passed 3-0.
• Renee Stupak, the Register of Probate, shared she is concerned the budgeted funds for the department’s court appointments is not enough to make it through the year. She attributes the shortfall to a sharp increase in custody battles compared with that of recent years. Renee explained that due to the high level of drug use in our area, her Department is constantly working with DHS and the courts on assigning parental rights to minors whose parents are battling with substance addictions. Renee stated that she has been working with Finance Director Judy Alexander on funding the shortfall but wants the Commissioners to be aware of the problem.
• The Commissioners, Administrator Bill Collins and Renee discussed the legislative bills that aim to consolidate certain cases that county Probate offices handle and potentially move them to District Court. A special committee is currently researching what effects a consolidation would have on the District Court and Probate Offices around the state.
Sheriff’s Department Update-
• Sheriff Troy Morton presented the current population figures today for the county’s jail. The facility is housing 189 inmates (154 males, 35 females) with 31 boarded out to other county jails. The jail is housing two federal inmates and there are 70 individuals in Pre-Trial Services.
• The Sheriff commended the DA’s office for help in expediting a couple of prolonged sentences the jail has been attempting to get moved. Troy explained that in one case an individual and their defense attorney has been perpetually delaying a sentencing on a case that the inmate was found guilty. With the help of the DA’s office communicating with the Judge over the case, the inmate’s sentencing date was finally scheduled.
• Sheriff Morton invited the Commissioners to a department Barbeque being held Wednesday, August 23rd at 5:30pm.
• The Sheriff reminded the Commissioners that they have not scheduled their annual tour of the jail facility. Administrator Collins will make it part of a future agenda.
• Commissioner Baldacci asked Troy his thoughts on a recent Bangor Daily News editorial which constructively criticized why Maine jails disallow the treatment and access to medically assisted drug medications such as Suboxone and Methadone. Troy responded that he has not read the article but believes even though jails are not supposed to serve as a substance and mental health rehab center, the reality is that they are based on the lack of treatment centers. Troy commented that he is supportive of medically assisted drugs, however he feels they are abused in the jail. Troy feels the key is to provide counseling and services to individuals before they turn to drugs and substance abuse. In asking many of the inmates of our jail why they struggle with drugs, Troy has found the vast majority share one of two answers: 1) They become users after being prescribed pain medication from a physical ailment, and/or 2) They have experienced a mass trauma in their lifetime and use the drugs as a coping mechanism. Sheriff feels our society should try to focus more on providing counseling to these individual before they turn to substance abuse. Commissioner Baldacci asked if Troy would continue to evaluate the best way to help counsel and treat the inmates that are in our jail. Troy responded that the reason we don’t offer Suboxone and Methadone is that our medical provider is not licensed to give those meds. The State of Maine requires an additional license to administer those drugs.
• Sheriff Morton stated he will be at the Blaine House tomorrow to attend a discussion on how to improved substance abuse programs in corrections’ facilities. The Sheriff hopes that there will be a Standard of Care for Drug rehab as opposed to Drs. currently prescribing widely varying drugs and dosages to help curb substance abusers. Troy did note that we are the only jail in the state that uses the Vivitrol drug program. However the Sheriff again stressed the importance of aiding individuals before they turn to substance abuse or self-medicating, because many Pre-trial inmates that the jail houses do not have the mindset to re-hab. Their focus is they are about to be sentenced and trying to get their financial and life affairs in order before their sentencing dates.
• Commissioner Baldacci recently returned from the NACO convention in Columbus Ohio. He stated that he talked with Mark Johnson of the NIC who shared that he plans on visiting our jail campus later in the year. Sheriff Morton explained that Mr. Johnson will be holding a free class on the logistics of expanding jails and that the county can have a number of employees sit in on the class.
• The Sheriff is meeting with a representative from Eastern Maine Medical Center later today to discuss if there is any interest in EMMC providing in house medical care at our jail.
• Troy will also be sitting down with a representative from the jail’s current in-house medical provider CHP, to express his frustration with the lack of adequate staffing of Doctors/HSAs the company has been providing. Troy noted the county’s contract with CHP expires in September, and that he would suggest consideration of putting the contract out to bid.
• The Sheriff has been working on putting together a draft Jail Variance to be compliant with DOC regulations and standards. In light of a recent compliance audit, Troy would like to include a rough time frame to give DOC that describes when the jail will be working on some of the violations/areas of improvement the audit discovered. Some of which included; expanding intake/holding, better sight/sound management of female/male inmates, and adding showers to one of the jail’s blocks that did not meet the minimum standard. Commissioner Baldacci stated Troy could note that as mentioned previously the NIC will be holding an educational class in the fall of this year discussing the logistics of jail expansion. This winter the Commissioners plan to form a Jail expansion committee to examine all options of the recently acquired property next door as well as the jail’s current structure. By the end of the winter the county plans to have any significant site work done to the 127 Hammond Street Property in preparation to the building/property’s re-model. The Commissioners would like to have more concrete plans of the possible county campus expansion by next spring in order for the county to go out to bond in time for the referendum in June or November of 2018.
• Troy stated that four new employees have completed the Correctional Training Academy. However a long-time officer recently put in their notice over not wanting to work as much overtime that has been required due to staffing troubles. Sheriff Morton mentioned that the Correctional Academy has recently stated that jails can do an on-site 40 hour training class with new jail hires and then be able to have the employees immediately start filling shifts. Previously all new hires were required to pass the 5-week training course for correctional officers before beginning employment/training in their respective jail. Sheriff Morton stated that new Training Sergeant Ray Goodspeed has been working with the Training Academy to create different training sessions based on what type of job a correction officer would be doing (i.e. hospital duty, transports, etc). This could possibly shorten the length of time an officer would be required to train at the academy. Troy expressed that from a safety standpoint he is not comfortable with Correction Officers beginning employment inside the jail without completing the 5-week academy course first. He also expressed his frustration with the differing standards of the DOC and Training Academy. Troy hopes that they will communicate and come to common grounds on training procedures.
Executive Session - Commissioner Davis motioned to go into Executive Session to discuss a personnel matter at 9:45 am under 1 MRSA §405 (6) (A). Commissioner Sanborn seconded the motion. Vote to approve passed 3-0. The Commissioners, Administrator Bill Collins, Sheriff Troy Morton, and Administrative Assistant Tyler Thompson were in attendance. Executive Session ended at 10:58 am with no votes taken.
Unorganized Territory Update-
• Department Head Barbara Veilleux and Deputy Director George Buswell presented the Greenfield paving contract with Vaughn Thibodeau to be signed. The contract was awarded to Thibodeau in a previous Commissioners’ meeting. Contract signed.
• Barbara stated the she has forwarded a revised contracts with PERC to the county’s attorney for his review. She explained that there is a clause in the contract that states the county must obtain written permission from PERC before delivering waste to any other facility. The county currently delivers waste from Burlington and Sherman (generated in Grand Falls & Herseytown) to Fiberight. Barbara has asked the county’s attorney if we should get the permission before signing the contract. Commissioner Davis agreed that would be wise.
• Barbara asked if the Commissioner wish to remain in partnership with PERC or exercise our put option which is worth roughly $7,800. The put option is the county’s value of the shares in the partnership. Barbara’s understanding of the put option is if the county were to keep the option they would maintain their partnership stake. If they decided to exercise the put option they would receive the $7,800 and simply be a customer from that point forward. Commissioner Baldacci felt for the amount of money, it would be advantageous to still maintain partnership with PERC. Commissioner Davis made a motion to remain a partner with PERC and not exercise the put option. Commissioner Sanborn seconded the motion. Vote to approve passed 3-0.
• Barbara then explained that Administrator Bill Collins had received an email notifying counties that the GPS 911 collection and mapping department of the State (MEGIS)’s budget has been zeroed out. Barbara noted that without the system she and George would have to go and manually calculate any new E911 addresses, which loses location accuracy. This also puts public data at risk of not being updated and makes the job of PSAP and emergency services more difficult. Commissioner Baldacci and Commissioner Sanborn noted that the State’s appropriation committee should be discussing this and other funding issues this week.
• Barbara is waiting for the opinion from the DA’s Office in regards to the legality of putting a lien on the owner of a property that the county has asked the owner for clean-up costs. She hopes to hear from their office later today.
• Last week Barbara asked if the Commissioners would approve going out to bid for servicing, processing, and reviewing of the loans and grants that will be provided out of the UT’s TIF fund. Barbara explained that she has shared the RFP with all of the committee members and she has made and re-shared any modifications to the document. Barbara and Commissioner Baldacci stated that the bids put in for the service will state the costs involved with reviewing the loans/funds and the Commissioners can decide to not pursue the service at the time if they feel the costs are too high. She did reiterate that the banking standards can be very complex with loans/grants and she would not feel comfortable performing the whole service herself. Commissioner Davis suggested for Barbara to reach out to a couple more individuals to see if they would have any interest serving on the committee. Barbara noted that she was unable to make contact with Greg Fuller of Machias Savings Bank whom Commissioner Davis had suggested last week. Barbara said she would try to contact him through EMDC. Commissioner Sanborn made a motion to put the TIF Fund’s Financial Services out to bid. Commissioner Davis seconded the motion. Vote to approve passed 3-0. The Commissioners suggested mailing out the RFP to Penquis Cap and EMDC, and Barbara stated that she will advertise the bid posting as well.
• George recently attended a PERC open house in which the organization displayed a new slow speed grinder to help process a wider selection of wastes. George complemented the tour and stated that the organization provides a great alternative in disposing bulkier waste items that would otherwise go to landfills.
Public Hearing for Special Event & Special Amusement Permits for New England Outdoor Center (NEOC)-
• Barbara presented a list of dates that NEOC has requested Special Event and Special Amusement permits. The Center has requested Special Event permits for 8 weddings and 1 private gatherings through the summer as well as a Special Amusement permit so that they may be able to provide entertainment at their facility. There were no public comments in regards to the permits. Commissioner Davis made a motion to grant NEOC the Special Event and Special Amusement permits for the before mentioned events. Commissioner Sanborn seconded the motion. Vote to approve passed 3-0.
DA’s Office Update-
• Office Manager Kristine Higgins informed the Commissioners that one of the office’s part-time employees has given their notice. In that individual’s place Kristine would like to hire an intern that the county has had in the office from EMCC. Kristine noted it has been an advantage being able to evaluate the individual from having them as an intern, and feels comfortable with offering them the position. The Commissioners expressed their approval.
• Administrator Bill Collins stated that the Hancock County Commissioner voted unanimously not to have our PRCC department help provide Hancock’s PSAP service.
• As mentioned in last week’s meeting Piscataquis County’s telephone and computer systems were shut down due to a bad lighting/thunder storm last week. They sent a letter commending our IT Director Cliff Warren and Adam Prosser for their assistance in getting the system back up and running.
• Last week Bill explained that the organization that handles the county’s deferred compensation program, VOYA, reached out to Bill and notified him that if the county does not sign the updated terms of their contract that the organization may not accept any future contributions made to the retirement plan. Bill was given permission to and has since signed the contract. Commissioner Baldacci suggested possibly putting out an RFP for the county’s retirement services. Bill said that the county may not even need to go out to bid on the service, but rather add another deferred compensation provider. This would enable individuals that would choose to keep their funds in their VOYA accounts, the opportunity to do so.
• Also last week the county’s Registrar of Deeds, Susan Bulay, notified Bill that one of their micro film storage vendors (AMS) has been acquired by another company (Konica). Konica has notified Susan that they wish to have a contract signed before they do any more work for the department. Commissioners Davis and Sanborn approved the contract upon allowing Commissioner Baldacci to also review the contract’s term. Commissioner Baldacci stated he has reviewed the contract and is in support of signing it.
• Bill presented a mid-year financial snapshot on behalf of Finance Director Judy Alexander who was unable to attend today due to a seminar. Bill noted the expenditures looked very good on behalf of all of the departments. The only department that has spent over 50% of their budgeted funds for the year was the IT department. Bill explained this was due to some large capital expenditures earlier in the year but the expenditures should level out as the year closes. Bill commended the Jail for coming in $75,000 under their budgeted expenditures, however their revenues fell short roughly $656,000 for their fiscal year budget. Commissioner Baldacci asked if Bill has heard any more news on when the county expects to receive for jail funding. Bill has reached out MCCA Executive Director Charlie Pray, DOC contact Scott Ferguson, and his counterparts at other counties and has no answers.
• A handful of county administrators and Commissioners attended the Lobster Mania event at the BARN.
• Bill informed that the backflow water meters were being tested this morning. Commissioner Davis felt we should keep water hooked up at 127 Hammond Street and test the meter as opposed to disconnecting the water source entirely.
• Long-time county employee DJ Bowden has informed Bill that she will be retiring this November. Commissioner Baldacci added that the county should review our policy on retirees’ health insurance terms.
• Bill stated that a former jail inmate has filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission against the County. Attorney John Hamer has sent correspondence back to the Commission in regards to the case. Commissioner Baldacci noted that the complaint was primarily against the DOC, but the individual included our jail in his grievance.
• Bill explained that in midst of questions of whether the Northeastern Workforce Development Board (NWDB) will have funding based on the State’s new budget, the five counties that the board represents will carry a liability if those NWDB employees become unemployed. Commissioner Davis hopes the State will accept this liability if they choose to cut the program. The Commissioners would hate to see the program dissolve.
• Bill then presented paperwork for the Commissioners to sign in regards to the upcoming County Convention taking place September 8th-10th.
• Payroll Warrant to be approved for: $ 212,042.12
• Accounts Payable Warrant to be approved for: $ 356,835.53
• Unorganized Territory Warrant to be approved for: None
• Payroll change notice signed for: Hired – Nichole Dudley. Resignation – Benjamin Handzel. Resignation F/T & Transfer to P/T – Marc Curtis. Miscellaneous – Amy Polyot and Adam Prosser.
• Compensation notice signed for: Barbara Veilleux – 2 Hours, Terry Sullivan – 6 Hours, and Tyler Thompson - .75 Hours.
Public Comment- None
Meeting Adjourned- The meeting was adjourned at 10:50 am with no further business on the agenda.
Penobscot County Administrator, William Collins
Peter K. Baldacci, Chairman
Laura J. Sanborn, Commissioner
Thomas J. Davis, Jr., Commissioner