GOULDSBORO — Amid controversy over an upcoming vote on whether to disband the town police department, two key Gouldsboro officials have resigned.
Police Chief Tyler Dunbar tendered his resignation mid-afternoon June 12. The following day, during her report to the selectmen at their June 13 meeting, Town Manager Sherri Cox said she was giving two months notice in accordance with her contract.
“I’d like to go to Florida next winter,” she said.
The resignations followed news that Gouldsboro’s Town Meeting and municipal elections would have to be rescheduled. Posted town warrants for the original dates of June 11 and 12 had not been signed by selectmen as required by law.
Municipal elections, now set for 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday, June 25, include three races for selectman as well as a vote on a citizen petition to disband the Police Department and, instead, contract with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office.
Town Meeting is now set for 7 p.m. on June 26 at the Peninsula School in Prospect Harbor.
In order to choose the new dates for the Town Meeting and elections, the selectmen held emergency meetings on June 7 and June 10. Discussion about the police referendum dominated both of those meetings and was a significant part of the board’s regular June 13 meeting.
“It’s clear there is a significant lack of political support for the Police Department from the town government,” the police chief said in an email regarding the reasons for his resignation. His last day is June 26.
“As town manager, I’m sad to hear that, truthfully. I think he did a good job,” Cox said. “He followed the letter of the law.”
Several residents at the June 13 meeting said they wanted to know if the selectmen had signed the petition to vote on disbanding the police.
Selectman Ernest West said he didn’t see the petition in time to sign it. Selectmen Dana Rice and Cheri Robinson said they did sign but said their signatures don’t mean they favor disbanding the Police Department.
“It doesn’t mean I agree or disagree,” Rice said. “It just means I think we ought to vote on it.”
But resident Mike Walsh disagreed, saying the fact that Rice and Robinson signed “speaks volumes” about their lack of support for the Police Department.
Rice and Robinson said signing petitions is their right as citizens.
“Just because I sit behind this table doesn’t mean I give up any of my rights as a citizen,” said Rice, adding he frequently signs nomination papers for residents wishing to run for office.
“I may not vote for them in the end,” he said.
Also at the meeting, the selectmen discussed a mailing to residents comparing costs for police protection from both the Gouldsboro Police Department and the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office.
Cox prepared a document that was bulk mailed to residents on Friday, June 14.
Although Rice approved sending out the document, he repeated statements he has made at previous meetings — that the town cannot come up with accurate numbers for the costs of using the county sheriff’s deputies, and adding that he believes attempting to do so is “foolishness.”
The language of the referendum question does not specify the number of hours of police coverage the town would receive from either agency. Gouldsboro police currently provide about 100 hours of coverage per week.
Bob Youtt, a candidate for selectman, said the numbers are not difficult to get.
“That [estimate] already exists and [the county] should be able to provide it in less than 24 hours,” he said.
The total proposed police budget is $209,065 and, said Cox, this is the maximum amount the town would be able to spend whether or not the referendum passes. The cost of 100 hours of coverage from the county would run $265,517, according to figures provided to the town by the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office.
The police currently handle animal control but the county does not. If the town were to use the county for police protection, it would have to pay an additional $2,500 for animal control.
The county also would require the town to set aside $10,000 each year into a fund for eventual replacement of each of its two police vehicles. The town would also incur one-time costs for uniforms ($2,500 per officer) and $600 for detailing cruisers.
Residents June 25 also will vote for candidates to fill three positions on the Board of Selectmen. Michael Bernier, Christopher Urquhart and Robert Youtt are running against each other to fill the unexpired term of former Selectman Bill Thayer, who died in April. That two-year term will expire in 2021.
Three candidates are vying for two other seats on the board. They are incumbent Ernie West, Deborah Bisson and Walter Moore.