Franklin Countys First News

Commissioners opt to advertise communications director position

FARMINGTON - County commissioners decided to advertise the position of communications director at Tuesday's meeting, rather than pursue the possibility of having the sheriff's office take over the leadership role for that department.

Communications Director Stanley Wheeler, who has held that position since its inception back in 2013, previously announced that he will be retiring at the end of the fiscal year. In 2013, the communications director position was created to separate the county's dispatch center operations from the Franklin County Sheriff's Office which previously oversaw it. The communications director currently reports directly to the commissioners, rather than the sheriff.

After Wheeler announced his retirement, there had been some discussion on the part of commissioners about eliminating the position and reestablishing the FCSO as the overseer of the dispatch center.

The Dispatch Advisory Committee members, made up of the heads of local police, fire and other first responding agencies, were at Tuesday's meeting to support the retention of the communications director position.

"It's very important to all of us - [Emergency Management Agency], fire, police - that this is done right," Farmington Police Chief Jack Peck said.

In a letter written to the commissioners, the committee said they were unanimous in supporting the position. While the committee acknowledged the need to be fiscally responsible, it suggested that the new director could assist in that goal.

"We hope you decided to open this position immediately," the letter reads, "the position to remain open until a suitable candidate is found."

Commissioners had in fact made that same determination, Commissioner Charlie Webster of Farmington said prior to Peck's remarks. Part of the reason the idea was brought up in the first place, Webster noted, was to garner feedback.

Commissioner Clyde Barker of Strong noted that Sheriff Scott Nichols had not supported taking over the dispatch center operations.

The county will begin advertising the communications director position immediately. Under the new salary scale, the communications director would receive $42,000 to $58,000 annually, although the specific number would be determined in negotiations between the commissioners and the applicant.

Barker suggested that the advisory committee participate in the interview process. When Wheeler was hired, the interview board consisted of some committee members, some county personnel and some people outside of the county, such as a representative of the Maine State Police.

In other business, the county has received a letter from the Maine County Commissioners Association indicating the county owes $168,887 for its participation in that organization's risk pool. The risk pool, which provided the county with coverage since 1991 up until late last year, insures its members against major incidents and the cost of lawsuits filed against jails, sheriff's offices and other elements of county government.

In October 2017, the county opted to go instead with a private company, Kyes Insurance of Farmington at the savings of roughly $40,000 a year. The assessment from MCCA relates to nine years in which there remains an open claim attributable to any of the MCCA's members. As loss years are resolved moving forward Franklin County would be refunded a portion of its payment, according to the letter.

Commissioners opted to hire attorney Warren Shay, a partner at the Skowhegan-based Perkins, Townsend, Shay & Talbot, to represent the county moving forward. Shay was recommended by the county's attorney, Frank Underkuffler, who is retiring.

Underkuffler did raise potential issues with MCCA's letter, County Clerk Julie Magoon said.

Webster said that commissioners wanted to see more proof from MCCA prior to paying anything.

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2 Responses »

  1. there are people within the dispatch office that are clearly qualified to apply for this position and hopefully will be considered for the position .its good to see that the stand alone center that voters voted on will stay a stand alone center rather then be turned over to the sheriffes office which would have been a slap in the face for voters .

  2. While I am happy that Stan will have more time for his family and his favorite- cooking. I will be sad to see him leave. He was always friendly , helpful and always an advocate for communications and emergency services.
    Since they were in a crowded, outdated room in the sheriffs office, he has managed to be a intricate part of a beautiful new facility and a great group of employees. My hats off to you Stan. Whomever replaces you will have big shoes to fill. My best on your retirement.