Cumberland County officials visit Casco

By Lisa Williams Ackley
Staff Writer

CASCO — Cumberland County government came to the Lake Region this week, when several department administrators and two county commissioners attended the selectmen’s meeting Tuesday night.

Cumberland County Commissioner Susan Witonis, a Casco resident and former selectman here, invited administrators from various County departments to meet with the selectmen and the public from surrounding area towns July 12 at the Casco Community Center, in her effort to bring County government up close and personal to the rural communities.

County Manager Peter Crichton, Sheriff Kevin Joyce and several of his administrators, Emergency Management Agency Director James Budway and Emergency Communications Director Bill Holmes attended the meeting, as did County Commissioner Richard Feeney of South Portland.

“I know it’s been a long time since anyone from the County has been here,” sad Commissioner Witonis, who just took office in January of this year.

Witonis then introduced County Manager Peter Crichton who spoke highly of longtime Casco Town Manager David Morton, saying, “I have known David for 20-plus years, and I have a lot of respect for what he does.”

Crichton said he, the three County commissioners and the administrators and their departments “are committed to Cumberland County government to make sure the County and region is vital.”

The County Manager explained that the Cumberland County Charter approved by voters directs that there be five county commissioners, instead of the current three.

“There will be greater representation, with five commissioners,” Crichton said. “Cumberland County celebrated its 250th anniversary last year, and we believe the work we do with the communities is the most important job we do.”

“County government is broad,” said County Manager Crichton. “We have 13 departments, and sometimes it is not well known or well understood, as to what we do.”

Crichton said various services provided for and used by local area residents include the Sheriff’s Office, Registry of Deeds, Register of Probate and the District Attorney’s Office, among others.

“We’re all very committed to this county, this community and the Lake Region,” Crichton said.

The election of two new county commissioners will take place this November via referendum, according to Crichton, and the two new commissioners will begin serving their terms in January, 2012.

Asked how the two new districts were determined, Crichton explained that the towns in the newly-mapped districts “had to be contiguous and the populations had to be about the same.”

“A lot has to do with population,” Crichton stated.

Commissioner Witonis said that the district she currently serves encompasses 15 communities totaling 93,000 citizens. She will represent 10 communities and serve about 56,000 residents, with the new setup of five districts instead of three.

Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce explained that he oversees both the Cumberland County Jail and the Sheriff’s Office with its patrol division, criminal investigation division and civil service component.

Sheriff Joyce said the Cumberland County Jail has 190 employees and averages about 425 inmates, some of whom are federal prisoners that the County receives money for to board them.

The Sheriff’s Office has 52 patrol deputies in 14 communities including administrators, Joyce said. Some other services provided include school resource officers and marine patrols in coastal communities. The Sheriff’s Office also has one of its deputies contracted out to the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office specifically to handle domestic violence investigations, according to Joyce.

The Detective division has 10 employees, including a polygraphist and two property and evidence technicians, said Sheriff Joyce. There is also an undercover officer who works on drug cases.

“The rest are in the patrol division,” Sheriff Joyce said.

The sheriff said he would explain the answer to the question of, “How does Casco figure in to County patrols?”

Through the county tax assessment, Casco shares two deputies with several other communities including Raymond, Harrison, Sebago and Baldwin.

Towns that contract with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s office for more specific coverage include Harrison, Harpswell and Standish, according to Joyce.

Calls for service for the Town of Casco in 2009 were 2,407, 2,711 in 2010 and 1,362 so far in 2011.

“The cost of service had gone up in 2009 and 2010, and we’re trying to keep it the same for 2011,” Sheriff Joyce stated.

“I have provided a list of what types of crimes we respond to in Casco,” said Joyce. “There were 103 disturbances (in 2009) — there are a fair amount of disturbances up here. There were 473 traffic violations (in the same time period).”

Sheriff Joyce proudly announced that his department has initiated the use of COMSTAR, or the Computer Oriented Mapping, Utilizing Statistical Tracking, Accountability and Response computer software program that provides important statistical data to help administrators and supervisors make better staffing decisions to more effectively deter crime.

Joyce said the new COMSTAR computer software allows the Sheriff’s Office to say, ‘Look, this is what’s occurring, and how can we solve it?’”

The sheriff used the hypothetical example of having the data show there are have been a “rash of burglaries in Casco that seem to be happening at night.”

“We can solve a lot of crime, if we put the push on and blitz an area,” Joyce said.

“This allows us to be proactive rather than reactive,” said Sheriff Joyce of the new COMSTAR software. “It also helps us determine where we want to spend our resources to get the biggest bang for our buck.”

“This side of Sebago Lake requires a lot of our resources,” Sheriff Joyce said.

“I do have the luxury of working with 250 of the finest people in the criminal justice arena,” the sheriff stated.

Emergency Communications for Cumberland County are overseen by Director Bill Holmes who has worked for the County for 30 years, with the last 10 of those as head of the Cumberland County Regional Communications Center.

“Last year, we handled over 20,000 9-1-1 calls,” Holmes said.

He explained that the CCRCC has a board of directors and answers to the commissioners and the county manager.

Town Manager Morton said,  “The town has saved about $25,000 every year, since joining the CRCC, over what it was costing us before (through Naples Dispatch).”

Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency Director James Budway said he has been in his post for four years now.

Budway said of the Cumberland County EMA, “We’re a small department comprised of seven personnel — a director, a deputy director and five planners.”

The County EMA serves as the focal point for disaster mitigation, preparation, response and recovery. Types of natural disasters the EMA handles include flooding, spring and storm water runoff, sever winter storms, wildfires, sever summer storms and hurricanes. Other disaster scenarios the EMA deals with include accidental spills and leaks, explosions, building collapses and truck, train and aviation accidents, according to Budway.

“I spend a lot of my time doing planning, and the people who work with me are planners,” said Budway. He said his agency has numerous state and federal resources to call upon, during major emergencies.

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