Lincoln County News | Newcastle, ME
Friday, May 22, 2015 Serving Maine and Lincoln County for over a century. Volume 140 Issue 21

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5/1/2013 2:00:00 PM
Legislation That Would Address Adverse Debt Receives Support From County Officials
By Charlotte Boynton


"An Act to Fairly Distribute the Debt Burden between the state and County Correctional Functions," gathered support from Lincoln and Sagadahoc officials at a hearing in Augusta, April 29, before the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

If approved the bill, LD 1320, will give some relief to the taxpayers of Lincoln and Sagadahoc Counties, specifically with the interest being paid on the Two Bridges Regional Jail construction debt. The legislation would require counties and agencies to pay a proportion of the interest on Two Bridges Regional Jail adverse debt.

The debt service of state's three flagship jails, Somerset, York, and Two Bridges, has cost the taxpayers in those counties nearly $6 million dollars, during the 2012 calendar year, in addition to the caps set by the consolation legislation, according to the written testimony from the Lincoln County Commissioners, the Sagadahoc Commissioners, and Col. Mark Westrum, Two Bridges Regional Jail Administrator.

Lincoln County Administrator John O'Connell told the committee the debt service for the entire county corrections system is borne by only four counties: Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Somerset, and York.

Lincoln and Sagadahoc each raise $2.6 million annually under their property tax caps, and each county raises close to another $1 million for debt service above the property tax cap.

"In Lincoln County that is $3.64 million and represents 35.9 percent of the county's $10.131 million budget," O'Connell said.

Although there are more inmates housed at Two Bridges from outside Lincoln and Sagadahoc County, even more than Cumberland County, which is three times the size of Two Bridges, Lincoln and Sagadahoc pay 100 percent of the debt service of the jail, according to O'Connell.

Sagadahoc County Administrator Pamela Hile said, in her testimony, the title of the legislation is misleading. "The proposed legislation does not ask for assistance in debt reduction -the principle still owed on the facilities will remain the responsibility of the counties. It does however, allow some relief from the carrying cost (i.e. interest)"

The voters of Lincoln and Sagadahoc County approved building Two Bridges in 2003 at a cost of $24.6 million. The facility opened November 2006. In 2008 legislation was adopted consolidating the Maine Correctional system and creating the State Board of Corrections. At the time of jail consolidation several of these counties had newly constructed facilities with significant debt, which was left the responsibility of the counties.

The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Bruce MacDonald, D-Boothbay, and co-sponsored by Senator Chris Johnson, D-Somerville, Rep. Michael Devin, D-Newcastle and Rep. Tim Marks, D-Pittston.

According to the summary of the bill, "It requires the State Board of Corrections to determine the average daily inmate population from outside of each county for the fiscal year. As long as the percentage of the population from outside of the county is more than 10 percent, the county may include a percentage of the interest associated with corrections debt that is equal to the percentage of inmates from outside the county in its budget submitted to the State Board of Corrections."



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