I am writing to respond to the misinformed column authored by George Smith concerning Maine counties (“Good riddance to Maine counties,” Nov. 23).

The challenge we face in Maine is the costly duplication of services at the local level in the name of local control. Our citizens pay for local control through higher property taxes. County government is the only regional government whose leaders are directly elected by the citizens of each county. Many parts of the country have lower local taxes because they have counties perform many regional services, such as education, road maintenance, health care, tax assessment, law enforcement, and general assistance, among others. Counties have proven to be more responsive to local needs than state government. We operate Registries of Deeds and Probate in each county, and several regional emergency dispatch centers. We provide excellent customer service that is not equaled when dealing with the state bureaucracy.

We operate our county jails economically, understanding the burden on the local taxpayers. But our local citizens understand the importance of having their jails well run and safe. They also appreciate the assistance counties provide local police departments by providing for the booking of arrestees so that the officers can return to the street promptly. Most municipal police departments in Maine used to have their own lockups at considerable risk and cost to them. Now county jails provide the service and have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars to our towns and cities.

George Smith had it wrong. We need stronger counties in Maine, not weaker.

Peter Baldacci

Penobscot County commissioner


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