ELLSWORTH — Hancock County towns that are currently seeking to create a shared animal control position held a Zoom meeting Aug. 25 to discuss the next steps in the process.
The towns of Franklin, Gouldsboro, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Trenton and Winter Harbor have been looking into this option for months.
What the position will look like, how the animal control officer will be paid and how towns will divvy up the cost are among the issues officials have been considering.
On the Aug. 25 call, representatives from Franklin, Lamoine and Trenton shared ideas on what parts of the plan have been resolved and what still needs to be worked out. Exact numbers on per-town costs still need to be worked out in order for the plan to move forward with the Hancock County Commissioners.
“Commissioners are very interested in it, but they need numbers, how much it costs,” said Franklin Board of Assessors Chairperson and Code Enforcement Officer Millard Billings, who was representing the unorganized territories of Hancock County at the meeting.
“I didn’t have a specific dollar figure,” said Stu Marckoon, administrative assistant to Lamoine’s Select Board. “I just suggested that there would be some sort of base rate that we all would pay; the ACO would charge per hour and per mile on specific responses.”
A salary is yet to be determined.
“What are we looking at for an annual total expense for this?” asked Fred Ehrlenbach, who chairs the Trenton Select Board. “Not for each town but what would this individual make? I think that’s what the commissioners want to know.”
What each of the towns currently pay their part-time animal control officers could be a starting point. The effort here is to combine these roles and associated costs for the towns to create a position with an attractive paycheck. Currently, many towns are struggling to find and retain animal control officers.
“It’s [the pay] going to have to be something that’s attractive, and benefits would certainly make that attractive,” said Marckoon.
This animal control position, although it is being created for the purpose of serving these eight particular towns, is proposed to be a county job.
“Since it’s a county employee will they be eligible for health and benefits from the county?” Ehrlenbach asked. “With the number of employees that the county has, they’re obligated if it’s over 25 hours a week.”
The other point of discussion was that of equipment needed for the animal control officer. Not all of the towns have sufficient equipment, but by pooling resources, many of the equipment needs can be met.
“Right now, we have no equipment, but I’m wondering if individual towns have equipment,” Billings said.
Individual towns do have some equipment, such as cages and traps. Notably, the most necessary and expensive item that must be obtained is a vehicle for the officer. Town officials discussed specifications that the animal control vehicle must have, including being large enough to carry traps, cages, equipment.
Ehrlenbach suggested that a retired law enforcement cruiser could be a suitable alternative to a larger truck, as it would meet the needs for the job without going over budget. Other town officials agreed with this idea.
“If we can get the county, one of their retired cruisers … that might be doable,” Marckoon said.
As for the next steps in this process, participating towns will be compiling their current individual annual animal control expenses. This will provide some indication of what the total cost as well as the per-town cost of this collaborative position could be. Officials from the participating towns will meet again in two weeks to discuss matters further.
Update: Franklin Board of Assessors chairperson and code enforcement officer Millard Billings was representing the unorganized territories of Hancock County at the meeting.