MADISON — Residents and town officials continued to raise concerns Monday night about Madison’s police services contract with the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office.

Town officials, meanwhile, have made clear it is not looking to reestablish its own police department.

At a lightly attended public hearing Monday night, Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster said his office continues to struggle with staffing as it works to cover every shift required by Madison’s contract with the Sheriff’s Office.

Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster Morning Sentinel file

In response to similar concerns about coverage in Madison, the sheriff told selectmen at their Nov. 27 meeting that his department was nearly in “crisis mode,” with only about half the deputies it needed.

“We have been very aggressive with our hiring,” Lancaster said Monday, noting that some positions have been filled recently.

Selectmen have said creating a new town police department is not on the table. And before Monday’s public hearing, Select Board Chairman Albert Veneziano said one of the public hearing’s purposes was to allow questions about the arrangement with the Sheriff’s Office, as the town and county begin negotiations on their next contract.


After Madison disbanded its police department in 2015 because of a significant decline in tax revenue, the town decided to contract with the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office to provide deputies assigned only to Madison.

Many agree the town of nearly 5,000 residents needs dedicated law enforcement coverage due to a large volume of calls. In 2023, deputies in Madison made 631 traffic stops, responded to 253 motor vehicle accidents, took 77 theft complaints and fielded 131 walk-ins, Lancaster said.

According to the terms of the most recent contract, the Sheriff’s Office is to provide one deputy for each of three daily shifts in Madison, along with a part-time administrative assistant. In the current fiscal year, the town is paying $589,500 to the county for that coverage, in addition to its county assessment, according to Town Manager Denise Ducharme.

Recent staffing shortages have caused some shifts to go uncovered. When that happens, the Sheriff’s Office returns what the town paid for the shift.

Even if a deputy is assigned to a Madison shift, that deputy might need to respond to calls in other communities. Some Madison residents are concerned that happens too often.

Selectwoman Kathy Estes said residents have told her it appears deputies who are assigned to Madison are often sent to calls elsewhere in the county, based on information from the county’s emergency dispatch log, which is available online to the public.


Others at the public hearing questioned why Madison taxpayers pay an assessment for county services, like all communities covered by the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, and pay for an additional contract with the Sheriff’s Office.

“I’m just not so sure that all the community people really know what we’re paying to Somerset County,” Madison resident Triss Smith said.

Somerset County Administrator Tim Curtis, who served previously as the town manager in Madison, said most of Madison’s yearly county assessment of about $800,000 goes toward funding the jail. About $200,000 of the town’s assessment goes to the Sheriff’s Office, in addition to the yearly contract of almost $600,000.

“If you compare that to what Pittsfield pays, what Skowhegan pays and what Fairfield pays, it’s still significantly less,” Curtis said.

Lancaster said if Madison did not pay for the contract to have dedicated deputies, his office might struggle to meet the town’s demand for police services.

“We would answer calls,” Lancaster said in response to a question about that scenario, “but this past year, we had over 18,000 calls for service in this county. It might be a while until the deputy could get to your complaint.”

Veneziano asked if a future contract could include a school resource officer. Lancaster said all options are on the table.

“We will build the model that you want,” Lancaster said.

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