AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage signed a supplemental budget bill on Wednesday that creates a new Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

The new department combines the Maine Department of Conservation and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources.

It will assume and oversee the duties and responsibilities of both former departments, according to a press release.

“Farmers and forest owners who assure the productive use of their land are the true stewards of our Maine woods, fields and natural areas,” LePage said in the release.

The release said Maine will now have a focused approach to the management, development and promotion of land-based activities throughout the state. The new department also is expected to make more efficient use of scarce resources, reduce duplication and compete competitively for funding.

The establishment of the new department creates a commissioner and two deputy commissioner positions, while eliminating one commissioner’s position. State officials estimate savings of $100,000.

The new department will have 732 full-time and seasonal employees and a budget of $96.5 million.

County budget topicof hearing tonight

AUGUSTA — Kennebec County administrators are hosting a public hearing tonight on a proposed 2012-13 budget, which is up less than 1 percent over this year.

The hearing is set for 6 p.m. at Hill House on State Street in the conference room on the first floor.

Assistant County Administrator Terry York said spending in the budget would go up .07 percent, to $10.6 million. That’s about $70,000 over this year’s budget of $10.5 million.

But County Administrator Bob Devlin said the county has to absorb a $150,000 reduction in revenue from the registry of deeds.

“This loss occurred when the Legislature capped copy fees at the registry and on the website,” Devlin said.

As a result, assessments on towns will rise nearly $300,000, to $9.3 million, for the 2012-13 budget.

York said the biggest increase in the budget is $140,000 for cruisers for the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Department. The vehicles the office bought in the past are no longer available, which forced the county to buy different makes and models.

“The equipment that we were (usually) able to transfer does not fit the new make and model,” York said. “We have to fully equip the new cars.”

Administrators cut $43,000 from benefits, $11,000 from the sheriff’s office, $7,000 from probate and $5,000 from the district attorney’s office.

Mutt Strut, events

to benefit shelter

AUGUSTA — Dogs and their owners will be strutting across the city Sunday, raising money for animals in need of shelter.

Kennebec Valley Humane Society’s 19th annual Mutt Strut and Paws in the Park, one of the shelter’s biggest fundraisers, starts with registration at 9 a.m. Sunday at Buker Community Center at 22 Armory St. and continues into the afternoon with a slate of events.

The Mutt Strut begins at 10 a.m. at the community center. Participants collect pledges and then walk with their pets, led by KVHS volunteers and animals, on Capitol Street along a marked route with crossing guards.

Following the walk, animal experts, demonstrations, products, games and services will be featured in the park outside the community center.

Organizers plan dog agility demonstrations, a police dog demonstration, games, basic obedience lessons, dog toenail clippings, microchipping, an animal communicator, raffles, a pet costume contest, face painting, a display of artwork celebrating animals, photos, food and a bake sale. KVHS takes in more than 3,000 abandoned or surrendered animals from 21 communities in Kennebec County every year.

For more information, contact the shelter at 626-3491 or www.pethavenlane.org.


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