AUGUSTA — More violent crime in Kennebec County is increasing budget requests for the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, but the move by the Registry of Deeds into a newly bought county building is expected to save more than $60,000 over the next year.

As it now stands, the county’s proposed spending plan tops $11.5 million, up 3.6 percent from a year ago, but still below the 4.71 tax cap limit for the county. The tax cap limit is the legislatively mandated limit on the amount of money county governments can raise for their own support.

During the initial review of the budget this week, the county Budget Committee members reviewed the draft budget, with questions for department heads.

The proposed budget includes funding requests that will add one deputy to the sheriff’s office and change how another is paid.

Bill Johnson, chief deputy at the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, completed a staffing analysis for the department that demonstrates the need for five additional deputies. Sheriff Ryan Reardon said he’s asking for funding for two. One of those deputies now is paid via shared federal drug forfeiture funds; that position would be paid from the county general fund. The other would be a new position.

Johnson took into consideration the number of calls the department receives, the response time and the time deputies spend completing their duties. Added into the mix is covering the time that deputies aren’t working — vacation, sick time, military service, testifying in court — that has to be filled by remaining staff members. That time is covered by deputies working overtime, at a cost of $88,000 a year, which is more than the budgeted amount of $80,000.


Adding two deputies would reduce the amount of back-filled overtime.

“It’s a supply and demand question,” Johnson said. “The demand is up here,” he said, pointing to a level above his head, “and supply is down here,” indicating a point around hip level.

“This is part of a multi-year plan,” County Manager Robert Devlin said. Depending on how future budgets shape up, he said, more patrol deputies may be requested.

The Kennebec County jail is one of two in Maine that’s chronically overcrowded, from increased arrests for drug trafficking and more aggressive prosecutions of crimes.

Not all towns in Kennebec County have their own law enforcement agencies. The Maine State Police and the sheriff’s office share coverage of those towns. Geographically, the county is divided into six zones, with each agency taking three. Reardon said the state police have asked him to take on an additional zone because of staffing problems, which would increase both the number of calls and the response time for county deputies.

“I haven’t agreed yet,” he said.


At the end of March, county officials announced they were buying the building at 77 Winthrop St. to house the Registry of Deeds, which has been in leased space at One Weston Court, where the rent was $70,000 annually. Because of money saved over a number of years in a capital improvements fund, officials were able to pay cash for the building, which doubles the space available to house the office that records deeds for Kennebec County.

Because of changes in valuation, some Kennebec County cities and towns, such as Waterville and Randolph, will pay less in county taxes. Windsor, with increased valuation, because of the construction of a Central Maine Power Co. substation, will pay more.

The next step is public hearings to give county residents a chance to speak about the proposed budget. The first will be held at 6 p.m. May 18 in the City Council chamber at The Center in Waterville. The second and final public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. May 25 in the Hill House Conference Room, in the county building on State Street. After that public hearing, the Budget Committee will adopt the final budget.

In Kennebec County, the nine-member Budget Committee is chosen by caucus and consists of municipal officials. By its vote, the committee approves the county spending plan.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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