PARIS — Oxford County continues to make steady progress as it converts its jail from a 72-hour holding facility to a full-time, full-service jail.

The Oxford County Commission on Thursday hired four new correction officers and promoted another officer to sergeant/supervisor. Commissioners also authorized County Administrator Donald Durrah and Sheriff Christopher Wainwright to sign contracts for food, medical and inmate telephone services ahead of the target date July 1 conversion.

The Oxford County Jail was downgraded to a 72-hour holding facility through a statewide jail consolidation plan in 2008, requiring it to transport inmates held more than 72 hours to Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset.

It cost the county $520,000 in 2020 to board those prisoners. In 2019, that cost was $777,500. The county budgeted $340,000 to cover the first six months of 2021 until the planned July opening.

Last month, commissioners accepted bids from Trinity Services Group, based in Florida, for food service and from Alternative Correctional Healthcare in Brunswick for medical service.

Durrah, Wainwright and County Treasurer Beth Calhoun have worked on the details and vetted the two contracts for the past month.

The inmate phone service will include tablets and videoconferencing, providing the inmates with more options to talk to family members at designated times. The calls will be monitored and recorded to prevent illegal activity. The equipment is provided to the jail at no cost and paid for by funds charged to the inmate and his or her family to use the equipment.

Hiring correction staff is perhaps the biggest hurdle in the jail reopening plan. To help solve the manpower issue, the commission approved the promotion of Austin Talgo from corrections officer to sergeant/supervisor and authorized the hiring of correction officers Jarrod Wiswell, Justin Cantin, Trent Newton and Kane Toothaker.

“We do see the light at the end of the tunnel for where we need to be,” Jail Administrator Dana Dillingham said.

Following a brief executive session, Commissioners Steven Merrill, Timothy Turner and Dave Duguay approved a $3,000 stipend for Administrative Assistant Deanna Petrie, who has filled multiple roles in the Sheriff’s Office for more than a year.

Seeking more consistency, Durrah shared a proposed policy change in purchasing and bidding procedures, making it clear and concise. He used the policy from Knox County as a template to fit Oxford’s needs.

Durrah also proposed changes to the policy on computer use by employees, adding a section on working from home and updating the policy on social media.

The board also considered a written request from Albany Township Registrar of Voters Joan Kimball, who asked for an increase in her stipend from $500 a year to $1,800. She explained the multitude of duties she performs in the township, including going to people’s homes or having them go to her home to register to vote. She uses her own computer, printer and fax.

Kimball has filled the position since 2000.

Commissioners appeared to favor the increase, but wanted to first see the language of the contract before approving the higher stipend.

Durrah added that he talked to her husband, John Kimball, about the conditions of the cemeteries in Albany. He said the county would take steps to remove a fence that was knocked over by a snowplow this winter and add signs at each of the cemeteries.


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