FARMINGTON — Franklin County commissioners want more information on a proposed animal control officer position that would be paid for through the unorganized territory budget and towns that would be involved.

It is a pilot project that would be evaluated.

The towns of Avon, Farmington, Industry, New Sharon and Phillips are interested in the county providing the service, Sheriff Scott Nichols Sr. said.

Nichols told commissioners Tuesday that he and Clerk Julie Magoon have been working on the animal control officer position since October 2015.

Every municipality in Maine must have access to an animal control officer who is certified by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

An animal control officer is responsible for dealing with all animals that might pose a threat or be a hazard, checking dogs for licenses and making sure licenses are renewed, according to Nichols.

They also have to handle animal trespass complaints and dogs running at large, as well as being aware of any potential for the spread of rabies in domestic and wild animals.

Nichols had been contacted by selectmen from different towns about the difficulties of finding and keeping a certified animal control officer.

The officer would work for Sheriff’s Office and would have access to professional training, including at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.

The animal control officer would be a part-time deputy, working 20 hours per week. Interested towns would contract with the county for services.

The Sheriff’s Office has a used pickup truck available that could be used by the animal control officer.

Responsibilities would include finding people who have not licensed their dogs. Dogs are required to be licensed once they reach the age of six months. 

There is approximately $10,000 in the unorganized territory budget for animal control services, county Clerk Julie Magoon said. Animal control services have always been under the auspices of the sheriff, she said.

The towns, which pay for ACO services now, would pay a share of the county cost.

The information collected by the officer would be entered into the county system to keep accurate records, Nichols said.

“I think this will be good for the county,” he said.

The employee would receive a stipend from the county and no benefits and would come under the county’s workers compensation insurance plan.

Nichols said he does not want his patrol deputies working as animal control officers, which is what is happening in some cases.

Commissioner Charles Webster of Farmington said he wouldn’t vote on it Tuesday.

“I think it is expansion of government,” he said.

Webster said he is not sure it is a role of the county to have an employee drive up to a house in a county truck and tell the resident(s) that their dog is not licensed, he said.

It should be a town animal control officer, he said. He didn’t understand how it could be economically done.

“I appreciate the work you have done,” he said. But “it seems like big government.”

He doesn’t see it as being only a 20-hour a week position.

Commissioner Gary McGrane said most towns have animal control officers and some are on call around the clock.

He suggested the first step — though he said he was not overly enthusiastic about the proposal — would be to find out what the towns expect from the service. Contractual agreements should be drawn up with interested parties.

Commissioner Chairman Clyde Barker of Strong said it was a good idea and would save the towns some money. It is very difficult to keep a trained animal control officer in a town, he said.

“I think it is a project for the county to look into,” Barker said.

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