MACHIAS — The crowds expected at Lubec and Eastport millennium celebrations are the top concern as the Washington County Sheriff’s Department and the Maine State Police prepare for the holiday weekend in Washington County.
“We’re going to have extra people out all New Year’s Eve and through the next morning,” said Lt. Wesley Hussey, commander of state police Troop J in East Machias.
Hussey said tired people driving to or from midnight and dawn millennium events could contribute to accidents. Other than that, Hussey said he didn’t expect problems.
In addition to patrolling the roads, state police will serve as a support mechanism for Eastport police and the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, which provides law enforcement for Lubec.
Washington County Chief Deputy Sidney Hughes said eight deputies are assigned to Lubec and the Sheriff’s Department will close the road to Quoddy Head State Park sometime Friday.
The park is home to the West Quoddy Head lighthouse, the easternmost point in the United States, and the site of both a flag ceremony at sunset Friday and sunrise Saturday. Spectators for those events will be taken to the lighthouse by shuttle bus, Hughes said.
“There is very little parking and it’s a narrow road,” Hughes said. “We have to make sure we can get emergency vehicles down there.”
A free public breakfast, originally scheduled to take place at the lighthouse after the dawn flag ceremony, has been moved to the American Legion Hall on Route 189, Hughes said.
Sheriff’s deputies, two officers to each of 13 cruisers, will begin patrolling Washington County on Friday afternoon. Hughes said the officers have been assigned specific patrol areas and another half-dozen deputies will be at the sheriff’s office, ready to provide backup.
The Washington County Regional Communication Center will double its dispatchers and the number of corrections officers at the county jail will also be double, he said.
Hughes said the communication equipment used by the dispatchers is so antiquated that Y2K doesn’t apply to it. The jail has new technology, but everything can also be operated manually, he said.
As far as a Y2K-related power outage, Hughes said Washington County was without power for almost a week during the 1998 ice storm and people know how to deal with a lack of electricity.
Hughes said the department isn’t expecting anything beyond the usual problems associated with a large number of people converging for celebrations.
Initially, law enforcement was concerned about a possible increase in burglaries if people began drawing large sums of cash from local banks, but that doesn’t appear to be happening, he said.
Linda Stevens, vice president of Machias Savings Bank, said all banks in the county have been working together on year 2000 preparations. Withdrawals appear to be no higher than usual for this time of year, she said.
Banks are prepared for large withdrawals and money is available if needed, but Stevens said she advises people not to take their money in cash. Banks are confident that Y2K won’t create bank problems, but if people are nervous and want their money, a check from the bank is safer, she said.
Most banks will be staffed to assure there aren’t problems and to prepare for the year-end close of the books, but most won’t be open to the public, she said.
Union Trust Co. will open the drive-up windows at branch offices in Milbridge, Blue Hill, Ellsworth Shopping Center and the main office in downtown Ellsworth from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. New Year’s Day.
Union Trust’s call center will be staffed and can be reached by calling 1-800-432-0271.