Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton (center) during the Penobscot County Commissioners’ meeting in Bangor. Credit: Gabor Degre

Penobscot County will buy 24 bulletproof vests using a source of funds it receives from the federal government in place of property taxes on federally owned land in the county.

The county expects to use about $24,500 it’s received from the federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes program to buy the new bulletproof vests and replace outdated gear, County Administrator Scott Adkins said.

The sheriff’s office initially asked county commissioners for $28,800 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to cover the cost of the vests. Penobscot County has received $29.5 million from that federal pandemic relief legislation that passed Congress last year, an amount that’s larger than the county’s annual budget.

However, commissioners voted Tuesday in favor of drawing 15 percent of the cost for the vests from a Tax Increment Financing fund the county has to encourage economic development in its unorganized territories and the remaining 85 percent from the Payment in Lieu of Taxes funding.

The county receives Payment in Lieu of Taxes funding from the federal Department of Interior to compensate the county for federally owned land, Adkins said. The largest amount of funding under that program stems from the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, which is not subject to property taxes because it is federally owned. 

While the sheriff’s office initially sought to use American Rescue Plan funds for the vests, county commissioners did not want to use that source, Adkins said. Instead, they asked the sheriff’s office to apply for a grant with the Department of Justice, but its application was denied, he said. 

Adkins said bulletproof vests have an expiration date and need to be updated from time to time to maintain safety standards. So far, no other American Rescue Plan funds have been allocated to the sheriff’s office, he said. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story identified the incorrect source of federal funds for the bulletproof vests.

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Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is a reporter covering Old Town, Orono and the surrounding areas. A recent graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he's worked for Vermont Public Radio, The...