SKOWHEGAN A new security guard at the Somerset County courthouse and a new dispatcher at the communications center have added to what otherwise is a flat-funded budget for the coming year, officials said Friday. The county Budget Committee gave its blessing Thursday night to a spending package for the coming year of $12,340,408, up 1.6 percent from the budget approved by county commissioners at this time last year. The final figure includes a 1 percent overlay for unexpected shortfalls in property tax revenue, bringing the total to $12,534,097.
Somerset County sheriff’s Deputy Mike Cray sits at his new work station as a security officer in the Somerset County Courthouse in Skowhegan. Cray, of Palmyra, started his new duties April 1. Somerset County Administrator Dawn DiBlasi said things were getting “more and more volatile” in courthouses across the state. Staff photo by Doug Harlow
The budget breaks down like this:
$4,863,215 for operations at the Somerset County Jail.
$2,188,978 for debt service on the construction of the jail.
$5,372,614 for general county spending. The tax rate charged to county towns is $2.43 for every $1,000 in assessed property value, spread across all of the towns and plantations in Somerset County.
Patrick Dolan, the county finance manager, said the overall increase of $202,689 includes adding labor and benefits for an additional dispatcher at the Somerset County Regional Communications Center in Skowhegan and a security position at the county building, which includes Superior Court, the district attorney s office, probate offices, administrative offices and the Registry of Deeds.
We ve had more and more security instances at the courthouse threatening calls and visits related to the probate court, Dolan said. Unfortunately, it is a public building, so we have anybody and everybody just walking into the building. Somerset County Deputy Mike Cray, of Palmyra, who came out of retirement, took over April 1 as the security guard at the courthouse. He sits at a desk in the corridor at the entrance to the building on High Street and has all visitors, including lawyers handling criminal cases upstairs in court, sign in on a clipboard sheet. The doors to the building at the top of the granite steps across from the old jail on Court Street no longer are in use. Somerset County Administrator Dawn DiBlasi said she is happy with the proposed budget, having run a bare-bones spending program for the past few years. She said the new dispatcher fills a gap in service for emergency calls and the security guard is a welcome addition to the courthouse.
We needed it down here, she said of having a security guard for problems at the probate and district attorney offices. The sheriff kept blowing his overtime budget by having to send a man down here.
DiBlasi said Somerset s was one of the few courthouses left in Maine without a courthouse security guard. Meanwhile, she said, things are getting more and more volatile in courthouses across the state. She said people have wandered into her office from the district attorney s office, often angry about the results of decisions or proceedings in court.
It s been difficult for me to get them out of here, she said. The cost of the building security officer, including equipment and benefits, is $92,671; but the state is contributing $14,185, so the final number is $78,484, DiBlasi said. She said the guard is also on duty when the judge is present and court is in session. As for the dispatcher, the communications center was taking so many calls from both Somerset and Kennebec counties, that a 15th one, including two supervisors, was needed. Only three dispatchers were on call for any shift taking in about 225 calls a day.
We were concerned that somebody s 911 call may not get through. What are you going to do when you ve got three guys on the phone and somebody s trying to get through? DiBlasi said. So for safety reasons, we thought it made sense, based on the statistics, the ratio of calls to people and the amount of calls.
The cost of the position is about $66,000, including wages and benefits. The county budget meeting and public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. May 16 in Superior Court on the second floor of the county building. The county commissioners will meet after the hearing. If commissioners agree with the Budget Committee s budget, they will vote it in as the final budget. If they disagree, the package with commissioners changes goes back to the Budget Committee for a final vote. If the Budget Committee cannot muster a two-thirds majority to put its approved budget into effect for the new fiscal year, the commissioners budget takes effect on July 1.
Doug Harlow 612-2367
We are now about 100 days into the Trump presidency. I think it is safe to say about half the country is happy with who won the election and the other half is not. I think it is also safe to say that this country remains divided, thanks to the overwhelming force of the two major political parties and the incomprehensible nature in which way we the people have succumbed to that force. What do I mean by that? Parties by their very existence are dividers. At the top level, they try to grow their party by berating the other, trying with all their power and money to get us to fall into one warring camp or the other, pitting one group against the other. They do this so they can march into the camp every two or four years and claim their spoils, which are, of course, votes, ensuring themselves another term in office; wonderful for them, does little for the people, let alone for the country. The win at all costs go far beyond the insane money involved. They try even more dividing tactics, pitting the rich against the poor, men against women, race against race, young against old. You think this is not so? You only have to look at the coverage of each election, spending millions of dollars on polling data. This candidate leads with women, this one leads with minorities, this one leads with young voters and so on and so on, and by the time the election is over, not only have we not come together as a nation, we have been divided to the point of hatred. How can this possibly be healthy for a nation that basically wants the same things, but our elected officials have cornered themselves into such a tiny little partisan box, they are unable to work with the other side.
Isn t this what we have seen for nearly 20 years? The Democrats doing whatever they could to regain the White House under the Bush administration, and the Republicans doing whatever they could to regain it during the Obama terms. Nether party willing to work together to solve the major issues of our time. Now, after the first 100 days of the Trump administration, we see the exact same battle lines being drawn. It looks like the next four years will be filled with party politics and the American people will again be in the back seat of the theater watching this horror film go on and on. It wasn t Bush s fault, not Obama s nor Trump s. The fault is squarely on the shoulders of Congress. They play party games instead of working together to move our country forward. It is clear the Halls of Congress are soundproof as the screaming-loud message of this election has fallen on deaf ears. Then, we have Nebraska. What a unique and successful way to govern. We have the nation s only one-house state legislature. Candidates for state senator run without a party affiliation. We have term limits to reduce cronyism and a referendum system that allows enough like-minded citizens to get constitutional issues on our ballots. This non-partisan-one-house legislature was the result of the tenacity of Sen. George Norris, who after serving several terms in the United States Senate as a Republican, left the party in 1936 and ran, and won as an Independent. You see, George believed in the people more than the party. He knew we could govern ourselves, even saying, To get good government and to retain it, it is necessary that a liberty-loving, educated, intelligent people should be ever watchful, to carefully guard and protect their rights and liberties.
Norris was right then, and his words still hold meaning today. We must all take an active part in being the watchdog of our elected officials. But if George Norris could see what is going on in Lincoln these days, he would roll over in his grave. Once again there is a bill that would force Nebraska s electoral college votes for president to cast all votes for winner-take-all. Currently, there only two states who have it right when casting their electoral college votes, Maine and Nebraska, which allows the votes to be split more in line with the way we actually voted. The other 48 states have it wrong. LB 25, introduced by Sen. Murante, wants Nebraska to further enhance the power of the political parties, and nullify thousands of Nebraskans presidential vote by going to the winner-take-all model. This is bad for the voters and good for the parties, exactly the opposite of what good Nebraska political values remain. Folks, it doesn t end there. LB 644, introduced by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs committee, which Murante is a member of, want to change the nominating committees for our open judge seats. They want to add language to existing law that says, All citizen members shall be affiliated with the political party with which the Governor is affiliated. And they want to delete language that says the governor shall appoint two alternate citizen members not of the same political party. In other words, put party above wisdom and experience in determining who our judges will be.
Folks, is it safe to say that we want basically the same things from our governments? We want security, we want good education, fair and equitable taxes, affordable access to health care, good roads, and the list could go on. And in addition we want those we elected to go to work for us, not their party, not lobbyists, not the campaign donors, not the next election cycle, but to go to work for us! And what that means is working across political and idealogical lines, finding the common ground to responsibly take care of the peoples business, not the party business.
How do we get that message to them? The message that George Norris knew worked so well. Put people above party. I don t know why, other than selfish gain, this won t resonate with our elected state and federal politicians. Do you? I would like to hear your take.
CLEVELAND LeBron James will sit out Cleveland s regular-season finale, resting a strained right calf in preparation for the playoffs. James didn t play in Monday night s loss at Miami and General Manager David Griffin confirmed Tuesday that James will miss Wednesday s game against Toronto.
LeBron James has made a habit of sitting out regular-season finales and will do it again Wednesday night, even though the Cleveland Cavaliers are seeking the top spot in the East. Associated Press/Darren Abate
James, 32, who hasn t played in the last regular-season game since 2007, logged 47 minutes in Sunday s overtime loss at Atlanta. He s trying to reach the finals for a seventh straight time. The Cavaliers have prioritized health and rest over getting the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. They also sat guard Kyrie Irving against the Heat. He s been bothered by soreness in his surgically repaired left knee.
Cleveland is also without center Tristan Thompson, who has a sprained right thumb.
Cleveland will sign free- agent swingman Dahntay Jones for the postseason. Jones, 36, made a significant contribution in last year s finals, when Cleveland rallied from a 3-1 deficit to stun Golden State. He came off the bench and scored five quick points in Game 6.
WARRIORS: Stephen Curry has the best-selling jersey in the NBA for the second consecutive year. The league announced that NBAStore.com sales show Curry leading LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving for the most popular jersey this season.
The NBA also said the Warriors have the best-selling merchandise as a franchise this season, ahead of the Cavaliers, Bulls, Lakers and Knicks. Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas appears in the top 15 in jersey sales for the first time at No. 14.
HAWKS: Atlanta appointed Malik Rose as general manager of its D-League affiliate in Erie, Pennsylvania, beginning next season. Rose also will maintain his duties as manager of basketball operations for the Hawks.
The Hawks new D-League franchise will play in Erie the next two seasons before relocating in 2019 to a 3,500-seat arena that will be built in College Park , adjacent to Atlanta s airport and only about 10 miles from Philips Arena. Rose was in the NBA for 13 years, playing with Charlotte, San Antonio, New York and Oklahoma City. He won NBA titles with the Spurs in 1999 and 2003.
CHARLES OAKLEY appeared at a Manhattan criminal court for an arraignment hearing stemming from a series of misdemeanor charges he faces after a scuffle with Madison Square Garden security during a February Knicks game. After a three-minute hearing, Oakley was ordered to file motions by May 16 and appear again on May 30. He faces two assault charges, two harassment charges and criminal trespassing.
Dressed in a dark blue suit, Oakley was the first of about 125 cases called before Judge Judy Kim at the lower Manhattan courthouse. The former Knicks player remained silent while assistant district attorney Ryan Lipes read the charges.
According to Lipes, Oakley told police during his arrest that he had a couple of drinks before arriving at the Garden for the Knicks-Clippers game Feb. 8. Every time I come to the Garden, Dolan has security guards on me, Oakley told police, referring to Knicks owner James Dolan.
Every time I come to the Garden, nothing good happens.