FARMINGTON — Increased rural patrols were among the goals Sheriff Scott Nichols Sr. set out in his campaign for Franklin County sheriff. It has been accomplished.

Nichols of New Sharon just completed his first year of a four-year term and has plans for the second year. That includes establishing an eight-week Citizens Police Academy with the first course starting this month in Eustis to help highlight how the Sheriff’s Department conducts law enforcement operations.

The department also established a new website: franklincounty-me.org. The site includes a “Tips” page which allows anybody to contact the department anonymously and provide information on ongoing criminal activity and juvenile consumption of alcohol and drugs, Nichols said.

Deputies are now traveling the dirt roads and back woods of Franklin County to conduct security checks and at times preempting crime, he said in a year-end report to county residents.

This type of patrol activity has increased the presence of deputies in areas that did not see routine patrol activity in years past, he said.

There were several occasions during patrol checks that deputies were able to preempt criminal activity before it occurred and also to notify owners of unsecured conditions of their properties, he said.

The addition of mobile data terminals in cruisers helped make it possible for deputies to stay in rural areas to fill out reports instead of traveling back to the sheriff’s office in Farmington.

Deputies have also visited several rural schools to evaluate school safety plans and participated in school reaction drills to a violent event.

They started a school visitation program throughout the county where they stop by at random times and check in with the administrative staff during the day, Nichols said. They also do their reports often in school parking lots simply to be visible, he said.

The Sheriff’s Department has enhanced the ability of our deputies to respond to an active shooter situation, should that be required, through increased training and new equipment, he said.

Nichols and others have also fought hard to re-establish the jail to a full-service operation. It was changed to a 72-hour holding facility in 2009 when the state consolidated county jails.

One of his greatest challenges is the struggle with the state Board of Corrections and “its grip on county jail facilities,” he said.

“It has truly been a David vs. Goliath endeavor,” he said.

Through the year Nichols, county and state officials and residents pushed at the state level to have the jail return to full operation. Though the efforts failed, Nichols said he has some hope due to the BOC acknowledging that the jail being at full service would help the unified county jail system, he said. The caveat is the Legislature would have to appropriate about $650,000 to cover the amount county taxpayers send in to support other jails. Taxpayers raise $1.6 million each year for the jail and it takes about $1 million to operate it as is. Nichols has said many times that the county could operate a full-service jail for less than the amount taxpayers raise.

Among other accomplishments during the year is the completion of the new Communications Center and a new director being named, he said.

Deputies have stayed busy investigating and solving crimes and assisting other law enforcement agencies when needed. They answered to 270 calls for assistance from other agencies last year.

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