SKOWHEGAN – Somerset County commissioners Wednesday morning approved borrowing $140,000 to cover overrun costs at the new communications center, along with future purchases at the center and the jail.
Budget Committee Chairman D. Dwight Dogherty suggested the three-year note to commissioners as a way to spread out past and current expenses, since the committee already is working with a budget increase for 2001.
The money will be used to cover $53,000 owed for work previously completed at the center by Yankee Communications, a new radio antenna at the center and other supplies. It also will cover the cost of new two-way radios for jail personnel. According to Dogherty, the radios now being used by the guards cannot be heard through concrete and are not useable inside certain sections of the jail, creating a dangerous situation.
According to Dogherty, the county is currently paying $60,000 a year for dedicated telephone lines.
“After the communications center becomes a Public Service Answering Point [E911 center], those costs will be absorbed by the state,” he said. “The county can then use the money previously spent on the lines to repay the note.”
The commissioners authorized County Clerk Robin Poland to put the note out to bid immediately.
In other matters related to the proposed budget, the county commissioners approved the summer, winter and capital road maintenance for the unorganized territories, a move that is certain to receive close attention from the budget committee. Road consultant Phil Curtis explained that the maintenance budgets increased by a combined $22,600 because of fuel cost increases.
He also said that the county will join with Anson and Kingfield in petitioning the state Department of Transportation to take over maintenance for Route 16. Currently the county pays for maintenance of a one-mile section.
Curtis said the two capital projects planned are one mile of the Tomhegan Road in Tomhegan Township, including a fabric base and 12 inches of gravel, at a proposed cost of $72,000, and 8,000 feet of the Long Falls Dam Road at Spring Lake, including gravel and repaving, at a cost of $175,000.
While discussing renewal of snow removal contracts, Curtis said he has been assured by the contractor covering the Concord Township area that sanding will be done appropriately this season.
Last winter, during an ice storm, Curtis said a school bus slid off the road.
“The driver had sanded the area around 3 a.m. and then went home to get some rest,” said Curtis. “He was not out there prior to the school buses making their rounds.”
“We have to remember,” he added, “that the county cannot guarantee 100 percent safe roads all winter.”
At this point, County Attorney Warren Shay advised the discussion of the incident cease since there is a potential for a lawsuit over the accident.
In other business, the commissioners voted:
. To advise all department heads to begin working together on joint purchases, such as supplies and statute books.
. To rebid a snowplowing contract at the communications center because the language in the contract was flawed.
. To table any change in insurance packages offered to elected officials pending more research into a vote on the subject taken by the previous board in 1998.
. Against changing the wages of the register of probate position after an inexperienced person was elected to replace a 20-year veteran in that job.
. To defeat a request from John Sullivan of Parlin Pond Sno-Riders Snowmobile Club to help purchase a trail groomer, pending more information.
. To defeat a request from an employee to have vacation pay in lieu of taking two weeks off.