AUBURN — The Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Department is asking to purchase body cams for its patrol deputies.

The request was made Wednesday evening during the third and final budget presentation to the commissioners for the 2018 Androscoggin County budget.

The third presentation focused mostly on the Sheriff’s Office — patrol, communication, civil process and the county jail.

For the past three weeks, commissioners have listened, but not acted on the 2018 budget. That will all change next Wednesday when the Androscoggin County Commission will hold a public hearing before diving into the preliminary budget and either make cuts or additions.

On Wednesday, Sheriff Eric Samson asked for $125,000 over five years to pay for the body cams, which also includes updating the cameras in all of the patrol cars and a new server. The yearly amount is nearly identical to the capital request last year that paid for new body armor for all the deputies.

The use of body cams is growing in popularity across the country. Samson and Chief Deputy William Gagne noted that small departments in Monmouth, Sabattus and Livermore Falls are now using body cams, while the Portland Police Department is looking to start purchasing body cams for its officers.

The Sheriff’s Department is looking to purchase approximately 20 body cameras, Gagne said. The cams come with a 10-year life expectancy, Samson said.

Samson agreed to provide commissioners with his department’s policy on cameras.

The patrol budget also seeks to add a patrol deputy. The new position would help lower the amount of overtime paid. Samson said if the new deputy is cut from the budget, the overtime budget would have to increase by $37,000.

Complicating the jail budget is the rising headcount in the county jail the past few months. Once trending under 150 inmates earlier in the year, the numbers have climbed above 180. Most of them are awaiting trial.

The increase has forced jail officials to begin boarding at least 10 prisoners a day at the Cumberland County Jail in Portland. Boarding that many prisoners each day would cost the county more than $23,000 over the next year.

The overall jail budget is increasing by $364,025, or about 6 percent. Much of the increase is being covered by an additional $229,876 reimbursement from the state.

The jail budget is responsible for half of the 6 percent increase in county taxes.

Facilities Director David Cote reviewed the building or facility budget, which has been cut 39.1 percent because of fewer planned capital improvements. Much of this year’s budget is paying for the major renovation to the clock tower project on the roof of the courthouse.

Cote said that project should begin by Sept. 11, when scaffolding is erected around the clock tower.

Commissioners will host a public hearing Wednesday, Sept. 6, beginning at 5:15 p.m. on the second floor of the courthouse. The panel will attempt to finalize the preliminary budget for the Budget Committee.

Last year’s budget-cutting meeting took more than seven hours and lasted until nearly 1 a.m.

The first Budget Committee meeting is scheduled at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 20.

Androscoggin County Building in Auburn. 

Androscoggin County Building in Auburn. 

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