PARIS — Oxford County Commission agreed to close the county building to the public on days when the state has shut down due to winter weather.

State marshals screen everyone who enters the Oxford County Courthouse complex, which includes all county offices. The security checkpoint operates like the screening areas at airports, checking for weapons. The marshals also ask visitors questions about their health and about any recent travel out of state to screen for COVID-19.

Department heads expressed concerns at Tuesday’s meeting about security on days the checkpoint is not manned if the state closes all offices for the day due to weather.

“It is important that the building is closed to the public on those days to keep employees safe,” Register of Deeds Cherri Crockett said.

Unless weather in Paris is severe, employees would still work on days that the state closes, handling business over the phone or by appointment.

Commissioner Steven Merrill of Norway called it an “issue that needs to be clarified.” Commissioner David Duguay of Byron agreed, adding the county should consider a hybrid model because weather conditions could be very different across the state and even in a large county like Oxford, which could have a foot of snow in part of the county and almost no snow in another part of the county.

The maintenance supervisor, a new position whose job description was adopted later in the meeting, will advise the commissioners and the county administrator regarding inclement weather “on closings, delays and early closures based on the department’s ability to safely manage the conditions.”

Revenues ahead of projections

In other business, Treasurer Beth Calhoun reported that the county’s financial picture looks bright, with only the sheriff’s department in danger of going over budget. Revenues were way ahead of projections. With two months remaining in the fiscal year, deeds are at 112% of expected revenues and probate is at 96%.

Calhoun’s only concern is the supplemental jail funding, which has not been allocated yet by the state.

Jail Administrator Dana Dillingham said the county received more than $1 million last year from the state, but only $400,000 so far this year. He said the state has $3 million available for supplemental funding to be divided up among the counties that need help. Oxford County is asking for more than $700,000 to cover its budget needs.

“We’re at the mercy of the state,” Dillingham said. “The state created this problem. They need to fix it.”

Besides state funding, Dillingham said his biggest frustration is staffing. The department is still working on filling vacancies. Dillingham said he will continue to use a polygraph test to find candidates. “We will not lower standards,” he said.

Mariah Castonguay, the office administrator in the District Attorney’s office, asked commissioners to switch the part-time office clerk position to full time, from 20 to 35 hours. Castonguay provided data that showed as many as 34 phone calls and office visits occur before 10 a,.m. and after 2 p.m., which interrupts work in the DA’s office. Commissioners were sympathetic to the request, but will until after the new year to see how the change would impact the budget.

Commissioners reported on an offer from the family of Bob Bahre for space in town to relocate the public safety offices. They are also considering building a new facility behind the courthouse on county land.

The board will interview five candidates Wednesday for county administrator. Current county administrator Tom Winsor is retiring at the end of the year. Winsor has served as county administrator since 2018.


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