2018-04-20 / Community

Towns look to share animal control duties

By Duke Harrington Staff Writer

The imminent retirement of Kennebunkport’s animal control officer, David Conway, effective June 30, has presented an opportunity for the town to join forces with Kennebunk, sharing a single officer going forward.

“I have looked at our calls for service relating to domestic animals and have found them to be relatively small compared to other communities,” Kennebunkport Police Chief Craig Sanford wrote in an April 5 memo to Town Manager Laurie Smith.

“Our budget numbers, along with the small call volume, would not support a fulltime position,” Sanford wrote, suggesting a regionalized approach.

Smith agreed and reached out to Kennebunk Town Manager Michael Pardue.

The result, approved by Kennebunk selectmen April 10 and their peers in Kennebunkport April 12, is a pilot project to share the services of Kennebunk’s animal control officer, Rebecca Parker, for a six-month stretch starting July 1.

“In the spirit of collaboration with our neighboring communities in looking for ways to perhaps streamline services and reduce some costs across the board for all of us, we thought this might be a real fine way to put our toe in the water, so to speak,” Pardue told his board.

“We’ll see how it works and if it does, we’ll certainly look to continue that,” Smith told he board, which agreed without comment.

In Kennebunk there was slightly more discussion.

Selectman Blake Baldwin, noting that Parker is a fully trained and certified police officer who performs regular patrol duties when not chasing down four-legged scofflaws, asked if she would remain available for those collateral duties, when called upon.

“I don’t believe for a moment that it will draw significantly from ACO Parker’s work here,” Pardue said of the new agreement, noting that, as in the Port, demands for animal control action is “relatively low.”

Pardue said he and Smith are currently analyzing call patterns to determine where and when an animal control officer is dispatched most often, in order to lay out a scheduling strategy.

“We haven’t determined yet whether she’s a Monday-to-Friday employee versus a Thursday-to-Sunday employee, especially during the summertime,” he said.

With that in mind, details such as how much Kennebunkport will pay and whether it will reimburse Kennebunk for Parker’s mileage and other expenses, in addition to exactly how her time will be split between the two towns, remain to be determined.

What decisions are made will depend to some extent on what Kennebunk voters do come town meeting time.

Even before the cooperative agreement was conceived, plans called on increasing Parker’s position in Kennebunk to fulltime, from 25 hours per week. According to Pardue, that was done primarily to give her extra hours to work parking enforcement and to lead the volunteer program that monitors dog access to town beaches. A plan for expanding the dog monitoring program under Parker’s supervision is expected to be put before Kennebunk selectmen at their next meeting, on April 24, Pardue said.

Although Parker’s position is not up for an individual vote on Kennebunk’s town meeting warrant, the expansion of her hours is contained in an article to decide the town’s $14.7 million operating budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

If that question fails, it could send selectmen back to the drawing board, which could put Parker’s expanded hours back on the table, which could then jeopardize the sharing agreement if selectmen choose to cut her back to her current time. Then again, rather than reimbursing Kennebunk for some of Parker’s time, Kennebunkport could simply end up paying for those hours more directly, resulting in the same general scope of operation.

What the sharing plan will look like in practice, with or without the budget-vote wrinkle, is likely to fall out of the direct purview of selectmen in either town, given the recent authorization to proceed.

Pardue told his board to expect notice sometime in December when he presents a report on how the agreement worked, along with a recommendation to ink a more permanent deal.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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