AUBURN — Androscoggin County deputies will soon be wearing body cameras.
County commissioners Wednesday unanimously approved spending $126,515 to equip each patrolman with a body camera and to update the cameras in every patrol car.
A total of 14 patrol car cameras and 14 body cams will be purchased. The cost includes servers, hardware, software and technical support.
The system will be purchased from WatchGuard Video of Allen, Texas, and financed for five years by Government Capital Corp.
The yearly cost will be about $27,000, Sheriff Eric Samson said. Commissioners had budgeted $25,000 per year for the upgrade.
The camera systems in the county patrol cars are at least 10 years old, and some no longer work, Samson said. They are past their life expectancy.
He described the new system as similar to when someone updates a cellphone — “Same as we use now, only newer.” — with better features and a smaller size.
“We’ll have better connectivity to the system in the car and the body cams, and it will be faster,” Samson said.
Instead of burning CDs, the videos will be stored on clouds for greater flexibility.
The body camera will be smaller than a deck of cards and worn on the chest to record interactions with the public.
A handful of police departments in Maine already use body cams.
Commissioners held a workshop following the meeting to discuss a potential plan proposed by Noel Madore of Lewiston to combine commissioner and budget committee meetings during the budget process.
Chairman Zak Maher of Poland liked the idea, saying his town’s budget process uses a similar format.
“The goal is to hold separate meetings in the same room in order to share the conversations and ideas,” he said.
Maher thought the current system was redundant in having department heads give two budget presentations.
Madore favored a “collaborative experience” in which the two committees would share ideas and concerns about the budget.
But the county charter would make such a system difficult to achieve, with Isaiah Lary of Wales describing it as “squeezing the process to fit the charter.”
“We need to follow the charter,” Lary said.
The current process, as defined in the county charter, is that commissioners review the administrator’s preliminary budget, hold a public hearing, make any changes necessary and present it to the Budget Committee.
The Budget Committee then reviews each account, makes changes during deliberations, holds another public hearing and presents its proposed budget to commissioners for final adoption.
There is nothing now that prevents commissioners and Budget Committee members from attending one another’s meetings. A handful of members do attend one another’s meetings during the budget process and are given opportunities to ask questions.
Administrator Larry Post said his department heads, who would benefit by making one presentation instead of two, were skeptical of the proposal.
“They see something now that is working and working well,” Post said. “They’re concerned that having 20 people in the room will create chaos.”
Commissioner Bonney Starbird of Auburn said the proposal “sounds good in theory,” but likely wouldn’t work as well for the county as in a small town the size of Poland.
With little support, commissioners scrapped the proposal.
Androscoggin County Building in Auburn.