April 04, 2020

Ellsworth, county officials mull public safety building

ELLSWORTH — City officials and Hancock County commissioners this week committed themselves on paper to jointly explore possible construction of a public safety building to house the new county jail and the Hancock sheriff and Ellsworth fire departments.

Dennis Damon, chairman of the commissioners, on Tuesday signed a resolution approved by city councilors Monday night that establishes a joint jail-public safety committee. The study group’s members will include Sheriff Bill Clark, City Manager Tim King, city Councilors Loren Clarke and John Phillips and two yet-to-be-appointed county commissioners.

Commissioner Walter Bunker regretted the fact that Fire Chief Everett Farnsworth and Police Chief Albert Carter had not been included on the committee, which was kept small so members can make quick headway.

“I think they should have been put on,” he lamented. “I thought they would have had a lot to offer.”

Outlined in the resolution, the committee’s role will be to determine whether such a building could be built in Ellsworth, and to draw up an agreement specifying the city and county’s share of site design, acquisition and improvement costs.

In addition, the committee is charged with site selection, choosing an architect and the scope of the firm’s services, devising a plan to finance the facility’s construction and drawing up a joint use agreement.

All the committee’s decisions would be subject to approval by the Hancock County commissioners and the Ellsworth City Council.

City Manager Tim King told city councilors Monday night that he did not expect the committee’s expenses to exceed $2,000, and he expected the cost to be divided equally.

The more than half-century old Ellsworth City Hall is in need of extensive renovations. The landmark building currently houses city offices and the police and fire departments. An architect has presented five options, four of which involve moving the fire station to another site.

Meanwhile, Hancock County is currently in violation of state jail standards and is operating under a waiver. The waiver has been renewed annually on the condition the county make headway toward renovating the current facility or building a new one. The latter option is considered the most cost effective.

Sheriff Bill Clark said he and fire and police Chiefs Farnsworth and Carter have looked at various potential sites for the building. He said they are eyeing one property off Route 1A.

“It’s a very hopeful site that appears to have enough flat land to build on,” he said Wednesday.

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