FARMINGTON – A private wind-power company recently paid Franklin County back for the cost of deploying sheriff’s deputies to keep protests under control this summer.
TransCanada wrote a check for almost $5,400 for the county’s law enforcement response, according to county Treasurer Karen Robinson.
In July, deputies were part of the additional security at a protest of the Kibby Mountain wind-power project, according to Sheriff Dennis C. Pike. The security was requested for a week-long demonstration by environmental activists behind the Earth First! movement, he said.
Deputies joined state police and border patrol officers at the site of the TransCanada wind-power project, according to Pike. Some officers were on duty for 30 hours straight during the demonstration, he said.
Four activists, including one who chained herself by the neck to a tractor-trailer, were arrested during one of the demonstrations, according to Morning Sentinel coverage of the event. The arrests were made when about 60 protesters tried to block an access road in order to prevent wind-turbine parts from being delivered.
Commission Chairman Gary McGrane questioned if the payment was appropriate. He said law enforcement protection is a responsibility of the sheriff’s department, which is paid for by taxpayers. It is not right to accept some form of “gratuity or reimbursement” for the taxpayer-funded service, McGrane said. This is only allowed for a contracted service, such as deputies providing security at the Farmington Fair, he said.
The response to the wind-power protests was requested by TransCanada for additional security, according to Pike. It was billed by the sheriff’s department based on the request, Robinson said.
Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty said this type of payment is common for every department in the state. “It’s called private contracts,” he said.
The contracts are used when a sheriff’s deputy is asked to provide an atypical service, according to Liberty.
He used a wind-power company transporting a turbine on public roads as an example. A request for a police department to stop traffic at busy intersection is within normal law enforcement duties. But a request for a police escort across the state likely involves a contract, Liberty said.
There are also cases when a person can request the additional contracted law enforcement service, according to Liberty. It’s approached as a “common best practice” dictated by the judgment of the department, he said.
Law enforcement agencies rely on a flat rate to charge for contracts, according to Liberty. The rate is $42 per hour, he said, and this reflects everything from the cost of salary and gas to administration and benefits. “All the true costs to get that deputy there … there is no impact on the (local) budget,” Liberty said.
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