A longtime emergency communications professional for the county hopes to unseat a two-term incumbent in the race for the District 4 seat on the Cumberland County Commission.

Bill Holmes, director of the Cumberland County Regional Communications Center for the last 16 years, is challenging Tom Coward, an attorney and county commissioner since 2012. District 4 represents Cape Elizabeth, South Portland, Westbrook and the North Deering section of Portland.

Coward said he would like to find a better way to pay for the Cumberland County Jail, find more opportunities for regional services and have the county better support recreational opportunities for residents.

Coward said his top priority is to get the state to continue picking up its share of the jail’s operating costs. The Maine County Commissioners Association in recent years has had to lobby “intensely” for the Legislature to pay 20 percent of the jail costs, he said. He would like to see a statutory funding mechanism rather than lobbying for funding every budget season, he said.

Coward said operation and financial management of the Cross Insurance Arena has only recently come under the purview of county commissioners, and finances have improved.

“They are still running a deficit, but it is a smaller deficit than it would have been before the change,” Coward said.

Coward said he would like the county to support more recreational opportunities, especially in more rural areas, by adding funding to local efforts for parks and trails.

Holmes said he would focus on bringing a fiscally conservative approach to the county budget, continuing the work on regional and community partnerships, and improving public safety.

Holmes said he would like to see a review of the Cross Insurance Arena, formerly called the Cumberland County Civic Center.

“It seems every year we operate that venue into the red. I think we have a responsibility to look at its operations,” Holmes said.

A review of the facility is particularly important as other performance venues, such as the Maine State Pier, Thompson’s Point and the State Theater in Portland compete with the arena to attract artists to the area, he said.

Holmes also said he would be a strong advocate for public safety “to make sure they have the manpower and resources to provide proper services.”

Michael Kelley can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter @mkelleynews

Read this story in The Forecaster.

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