FARMINGTON — Franklin County commissioners tabled action Tuesday on a request from the sheriff to change the structure of the Civil Division in an effort to be more efficient, save the county money and generate revenue.

Sheriff Scott Nichols Sr. proposed creating a utility deputy position. Its main job would be to serve civil process paperwork during 40 hours of scheduled time each week. The person would not work standard workweek hours. It would be a self-funded position, paid for out of the revenue generated.

Commissioner Gary McGrane of Jay said he needed to review information and talk to representatives of counties that have a similar structure before making a decision. Commissioner Clyde Barker of Strong said he was opposed to the change, but after listening to the presentation and hearing from Oxford County Chief Deputy Hart Dailey, he said he would not stand in the way of progress.

“It is the duty of the Sheriff’s Department to always search for ways to be more efficient and also to save money,” Nichols said. A change in structure would do that, he said.

The division is currently made up of two people who live in Kennebec County. They travel to pick up their mail that contains the civil process paperwork at the sheriff’s office in Farmington.

From there, they distribute the paperwork. Between the two men, they average 50 to 55 papers per month, he said.


Nichols listed pros and cons of the current system. On the pro side, the county does not provide cars, equipment or firearms to the civil deputies. On the con side, the county incurs any potential liability for civil deputies when they are out functioning on behalf of the Sheriff’s Department, he said. This includes their vehicle in regard to possible civil litigation, should they be involved in an accident, and their firearms, if they are used in the course of their duties.

“Because they work independently from the rest of the Sheriff’s Department, we have no idea of what type of service is being provided or when,” he said. “On occasion, we receive a citizen complaint regarding the civil process; I have a hard time accounting for what they are doing, but we are responsible for investigating those complaints, as we would any other deputy.”

Although they are considered part-time, they are not Maine Criminal Justice Academy trained police officers.

“We have no records available to the Sheriff’s Department staff to indicate who has been served or who has not. There is no accounting for what papers come in, what is served and what is not,” he said.

In the proposed change, the utility deputy would be supervised by Deputy Chief Steve Lowell.

The position would be self-funded, paid for by the revenue generated by the civil process.


“This would enable us to have an extra full-time deputy on the road, who would be able to assist or first respond to crimes in progress, accidents” and so forth, Nichols said. “This position would provide an additional marked cruiser on the road as a crime deterrent.”

The utility deputy would be full-time and trained through the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. While the deputy is being trained, Nichols, Lowell and Lt. David Rackliffe would serve civil papers.

All billing and proceeds would be coordinated through the Sheriff’s Department, working closely with the county Treasurer’s Office to ensure property billing.

All contacts generated would be integrated into the department’s records management system for permanent records keeping.

“We would have the ability to use that utility deputy to cover on average of two shifts per week, which annually amounts to $30,451 in overtime on the high end and $15,225 on the low end,” Nichols said. “Even when covering those shifts, the utility deputy can still serve his civil process papers.”

Initially, the utility deputy will use one of the spare cruisers to conduct business. Eventually, enough money will be generated to buy a vehicle for the position, he said.


In 2012-13, $56,343 in revenue was generated and is expected to rise to $57,420.

In 2013-14, $68,124 in revenue has been received as of February, Nichols said.

The new position will cost $53,169, including payroll, health benefits calculated at the highest rate, state retirement, workers compensation and other associated expenses, he said.

It is estimated that in 2014-15, the revenue brought in is estimated at $75,000 and the cost for the position and associated costs would be $55,419.38, he said.

The new position would start July 1.

Dailey said the process is working well in Oxford County. The two deputy positions were put out to bid within the department, and two of the deputies already on staff took them.

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