ELLSWORTH — Hancock County Sheriff Scott Kane has proposed two school resource officers in his 2019 budget, which was presented during a budget workshop the Hancock County Commissioners held Sept. 13.
However, Chairman Antonio Blasi immediately read a statement that he would not support “the revenues or expenditures” of a school resource officer because he had gotten letters from constituents who did not support the positions.
Later, Blasi said “the logistics that would provide an equitable solution for all schools in the county to benefit from this budgetary proposal remain insurmountable.”
The sheriff later expressed frustration.
“Here is a progressive project that Bucksport has, that Ellsworth has that MDI has,” Kane said. “But in the areas where they have the control, they [the commissioners] won’t support it.”
Four Hancock County school superintendents have asked the sheriff to provide school resource officers if those school districts fund the officers’ salaries.
They include Union 76 Superintendent Christian Elkington, Union 93 Superintendent Mark Hurvitt, Regional School Unit 24 (RSU 24) Superintendent Michael Eastman and Katrina Kane, superintendent for Hancock Grammar School and Lamoine Consolidated School.
The superintendents approached the Hancock County Commissioners after the Feb. 14 Parkland, Fla., mass school shooting, in which 17 people were killed — 15 students, an athletic director and a football coach — and 17 more were wounded.
Elkington and Hurvitt would share one resource officer on the western half of Hancock County. Eastman and Kane would share the other, on the eastern side.
“The four districts are willing to contribute $40,000 each,” Kane told the commissioners.
Those funds for school resource officers were approved during annual town meetings last winter and spring.
Three school districts in Hancock County already have school resource officers. They include Ellsworth, Bucksport-based Regional School Unit 25 and Mount Desert Island schools. Those districts are based in municipalities that have their own police departments.
The smaller towns that don’t have their own dedicated police force, such as those in the four districts that want to share school resource officers, receive law enforcement coverage from the Sheriff’s Department and the Maine State Police.
Kane said the county’s contribution would be greater the first year because the county would need to purchase two cruisers as well as equipment, including guns, bulletproof vests, radio and outfits. That would equal $52,000 an officer.
The cruisers would not need to be replaced for four years. Kane said he would put away funds to replace them.
“It takes a little bit of a bite to get it started,” Kane said.
The school districts would be paying the salaries and benefits of the school resource officers year-round but in summer, when school is out, they would be used for patrol.
“So I get those officers to supplement my patrol when I’ve got 3 million people going through Ellsworth to get to Bar Harbor,” Kane said.
Former sheriff and now County Commissioner Bill Clark said he would like to see an agenda item about whether the board is going to approve the school resource officers or not.
A public hearing on the 2019 Hancock County proposed budget, including the 2019-2020 Unorganized Territory budget, will be held in the County Commissioners’ Meeting Room at the Hancock County Courthouse in Ellsworth on Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 6 p.m.