A community collaboration involving an outreach program at the Somerset County Jail, Lake George Regional Park and students at Somerset Career and Technical Center at Skowhegan Area High School has landed the nonprofit regional park a refurbished “side-by-side” all terrain vehicle.

It all started two years ago when Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster agreed to send inmate work details to help out at the park, said park ranger Derek Ellis. Corrections Officer Dave Davis then asked Ellis if the park could use the jail’s 20-year-old ATV for jobs around the park.

“To which I replied it would be perfect for lots of projects rather than a truck,” Ellis said of the 1997 Kawasaki Mule. “He then told me it has been sitting for two years and would need some work. We decided that it would be great if we could include the high school technical center to do the work.”

Ellis said he then asked the technical center to lend a hand.

“They were more than excited to be part of this project since it was community service work and because it is a diesel. They don’t get many to work on. The whole thing worked out wonderfully. As a community, when we all kind of work together and partner, eventually really good things can come it. Really good things can happen.”

The ATV was delivered to the park on Tuesday. It has a long, narrow snow plow on the front operated by a winch, roll bars front and top, four-wheel drive, wide tires and a dump body that drops like a dump truck.

Lancaster said when the jail was under construction in 2008, the ATV was used for grounds work.

“This is actually Army surplus and they used it during construction,” Lancaster said. “We really haven’t had an application for it. Mr. Davis brought it to our attention that it had been sitting for a long time and we have a partnership with Lake George. We’ve helped in the past with clean up, sending inmates out there because they are a nonprofit.”

Lancaster said 25,000 people, many from Somerset County, use the park every summer, and the Mule will be put to good use.

Ellis said new parts for the ATV cost about $400, but the students at the career center donated all the work to fix the machine.

Mike Baker, instructor at the automotive technical shop in the career center, said they have eight high school seniors and seven juniors enrolled in the courses at the shop. Students start out in the program with basic safety instructions in the two-year course and get hands-on experience with all aspects of motor vehicle repair from brakes, exhaust and changing tires to computer diagnostics.

He said when they got the ATV Mule, it was in pretty rough shape.

“First of all, it didn’t run when we first got it,” Baker said. “They rolled it in here and asked if we could get it running and take it from there. If it runs, it’s going to be a good thing because they’re going to donate it to Lake George.”

Baker said they removed the fuel system, put new diesel fuel in it, turned it up, put a new battery in it, installed new brakes and did some welding to the body. He said they had to go almost to Lewiston to get some of the replacement parts for the old Mule.

“We actually got it to run,” he said. “Most of it was done by seniors we have here. It was good. I think the whole thing was good for everyone and the kids got a learning experience.”

Davis, the corrections officer who supervises the outside work crew of inmates performing community service work for older residents of the county, said inmates have to meet certain requirements to be eligible for outside work details. He said each inmate has to go through the jail’s classification process. Only non-violent offenders are eligible for the two-for-one program, meaning if they work two days, they get one day off their sentence.

There are two work crews, each with four inmates. Mike Courtney’s crew is responsible for the jail’s large garden, which supplies the jail with fresh vegetables in season. That crew also raises pigs during the summer, also for food for the jail.

Ellis said the bulk of the snow plowing at the park in the winter is done with his pickup truck and by volunteers, and the ATV will be put to good use cleaning up small, hard-to-get-to spaces and ice skating sections of the lake at the park, where a truck can’t get to and hand shoveling is no fun.

“Really, the uses are endless,” he said. “Anything we’d use a pickup for on the park ground we can now use this. It’s going to be much more park friendly.”

Ellis said what started out as an idea turned into a good deal for all the parties involved, adding that this summer is the park’s 25th anniversary.

“Equipment for us is almost impossible,” he said. “Buying equipment, each one requires a separate fundraiser. There’s really no money in the budget for big purchases like that. So any time something comes along that’s a gift from the community, it’s invaluable. It’s something that we can use every day that we’d never be able to afford.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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