ELLSWORTH — The Hancock County Commissioners are starting the new year with a new chairman.
Commissioner Paul Paradis nominated and the board unanimously approved Commissioner John Wombacher (D-Bucksport) to serve as chairman of the board for 2022. There was no discussion.
Wombacher represents District II, which includes the towns of Bucksport, Orland, Penobscot, Brooksville, Sedgwick, Brooklin, Dedham, Deer Isle, Stonington, Verona Island and Castine.
A new year also means a new budget.
Last month, the board approved a $9.8 million budget for 2022. That’s an increase of 5.4 percent over the 2021 budget. County Administrator Scott Adkins attributed the increase to personnel costs.
Of the $9.8 million, $6.9 million will be raised through taxes. The remaining $2.8 million will be made up through revenues.
“The main culprit, no surprise, are investments in the personnel providing the services,” Adkins said. “We are facing the same issues that most others are dealing with when it comes to employees.”
The county budget funds a variety of services, including the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office patrol division, the Hancock County Jail, the District Attorney’s Office, the Registry of Deeds, the Hancock County Probate Office and others.
In other business, the commissioners discussed a questionnaire to be distributed to county employees about their vaccination status.
“The questionnaire is necessary for Hancock County to begin preparation in complying with the OSHA ETS standards,” Adkins said.
ETS stands for emergency temporary standard, which in this case is a requirement that all employers with 100 or more employees either mandate that employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 or test them weekly to be sure they aren’t infected. Board members took no action on the questionnaire but said they would discuss it at a meeting later this month.
Deputy County Administrator Rebekah Knowlton told the board that since the county has an OSHA-approved state plan, “that buys us a little more time.”
“The state said they aren’t enforcing anything until February and the testing requirements won’t happen until March,” Knowlton said.
Paradis said, “To be honest, I couldn’t care less about the form. I don’t like maintaining any records in someone’s personnel file that we don’t have to, especially medical records.”