Adding to the force

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AUBURN – Another deputy may soon be patrolling Androscoggin County.

The county’s Budget Committee voted Wednesday to restore part of a plan by Sheriff Guy Desjardins, pulling staff away from the jail to add people on the road.

“That’s where I need them,” Desjardins said.

Instead of one deputy, the new sheriff asked for two, beginning on July 1 to make it easier to pay for them this year.

The two deputies would make have made it possible for the county to have three officers working during every night’s 12-hour night.

“I can live with one, though,” said Desjardins, whose prime concern is sufficient staffing during weekend nights.

“It’s getting dangerous out there,” he said.

For example, county policy demands that an officer have backup when answering a domestic disturbance call, one of the most unpredictable situations an officer might face.

Yet, the only two officers on duty might easily be 20 miles apart, scattered among the county’s 14 towns and already busy with a call or two.

It makes it precarious for officer safety.

If the climate becomes too unsafe for officers, Desjardins said he’ll pull them off the road for whole shifts. People in the towns would have to make the uneasy adjustment.

“There might come a day when the Cadillac may have to turn into the Chevy,” he said.

Budget Committee members said they sympathized with Desjardins’ concerns, but they did not want to commit to too many positions for future budgets.

The County Commission must approve the Budget Committee’s decision.

The Budget Committee also settled on a budget for the Androscoggin County Jail of $3.7 million, a $9,100 cut from the County Commission’s budget.

The $10.3 million spending proposal for the county would increase the tax levy by an estimated 11.8 percent.

The Budget Committee is scheduled to meet again next at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at the Androscoggin County Building.

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