Vinalhaven residents on Wednesday night shot down a proposal to continue paying the Knox County Sheriff’s Office to police their community.
The Courier-Gazette reports that the proposed $125,335 contract was the only item out of 48 on the town meeting warrant to fail.
That comes after residents have complained about “ineffective” police coverage following a series of high-profile incidents on the island.
In March, the island attracted national attention after a group of armed men allegedly tried to force out-of-staters to quarantine during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic by cutting down a tree to block their driveway.
Then, on June 14, 28-year-old Roger Feltis died from knife wounds. Feltis had filed a harassment complaint with a sheriff’s deputy against Dorian Ames three days before his death, which police ruled a homicide. A Knox County grand jury declined to indict Ames in the death earlier this month. Details about the circumstances around Feltis’ death are still unclear.
Vinalhaven has contracted with the sheriff’s office for police coverage for decades, according to the Courier-Gazette. It is one of two towns — the other is North Haven — that have a dedicated officer, Knox County Sheriff Tim Carroll told the newspaper.
The previous contract with the sheriff’s office expired on Dec. 31, 2019.
Vinalhaven Town Manager Andrew Dorr told the Courier-Gazette that residents have questioned the quality of the service, complained about coverage gaps and that the bill for it is “too high.”
Carroll acknowledged that a “bone of contention” between the islanders and his office is that a deputy does not live on the island full time. Under the expired contract, the town paid $750 a month for housing and up to $4,500 for heating and electricity for a deputy, the Courier-Gazette reports.
Another town meeting will be scheduled in the coming weeks to discuss police coverage, including options ranging from reviewing the contract with the sheriff’s office and starting an island-based police force, according to the newspaper.