PARIS — Oxford County officials are mulling a temporary expansion of the Sheriff’s Office to help with investigations into methamphetamine production.

The move would enable drug enforcement agents to broaden the network of police trained specifically to investigate meth manufacturing, enter the highly-volatile labs and secure evidence for criminal prosecution, police said.

The proposal would free sheriff’s Lt. Chancey Libby, already assigned to the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency’s western task force, to focus more heavily on drug investigations in Franklin, Oxford and Androscoggin counties.

The Oxford County Sheriff’s Office would be reimbursed the salary for a new, full-time detective for two years from the state. The county would have to pay for a cruiser and mileage costs, according to Sheriff Wayne Gallant.

Roy McKinney, director of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, said the move was not an indication of a problem in Oxford County but an effort to develop a network of specially trained police.

“We’re looking to proactively and aggressively identify everyone involved — not only the person mixing the ingredients, the cook producing and manufacturing, but (the person) providing or supplying the necessary ingredients,” McKinney said.

Last October, Maine was one of 10 states to receive a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to help in the state’s fight against the manufacture and use of methamphetamine. The $905,000 award was the third largest nationally.

In 2014, drug agents broke up a record 37 meth labs statewide, arresting 63 people, McKinney said.

In February 2014, 10 Oxford County residents were arrested on a variety of drug-related charges related to manufacturing meth at a home in Gilead and selling it across the county. Ringleaders got four-year jail sentences.

Gallant said he endorses the hiring to help supplement the detectives’ caseload.

County commissioners, who heard about the proposal last week, could make a decision as early as April 21.

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