Jesse Cormier, former interim chief for Limestone Police Department, updates town leaders about the impending closure of the police station. Credit: Melissa Lizotte / Aroostook Republican

LIMESTONE, Maine — The Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office now controls policing in Limestone.

The sheriff’s office formally took over the town’s police coverage Wednesday as the town’s former interim police chief works to close the station. Deputies will alternate with Maine State Police to cover Limestone each month.

Last week, residents voted to close the Limestone Police Department after months of failing to find and retain enough officers. Former interim chief Jesse Cormier came on board last September, hoping to rebuild the struggling department. But amid a national shortage of officers, Cormier found Limestone could not compete with larger communities, who can offer police more wages and benefits.

The Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office and Maine State Police had already increased their presence in Limestone in recent months. Now Cormier is cleaning the office and working to sell weapons and equipment.

“We should be finished by the end of the month,” Cormier said Wednesday.

Interim Town Manager Walt Elliot will work with Cormier to try to sell back uniform badges and weapons to former officers, in a move authorized Wednesday by the select board.

Board member Fred Pelletier abstained from the vote. He is a former Limestone Police reserve officer and is the first officer to inquire about buying back his gun.

The police department has six handguns, three shotguns, one rifle and one pistol that Cormier is trying to sell. Cormier advised against selling guns to anyone outside the department. Doing so could be a safety hazard, he said.

“We don’t want these weapons going on the street and being involved in a mass shooting,” Cormier said.

His fears come the same week that Maine experienced its worst mass shooting in 30 years. Four people were killed in Bowdoin Tuesday and three more injured 25 miles away on Interstate 295 in Yarmouth after the same suspect began randomly shooting. Police arrested the suspect, who had a violent criminal history, Tuesday and identified the victims the next day.

Since Cormier is a licensed federal firearms dealer, he is authorized to perform the required background checks before selling weapons and can take on those costs instead of the town.

“I can probably sell each weapon for $200 apiece,” Cormier said.

Cormier is talking with other police departments about purchasing uniforms and equipment. Elliot has already received inquiries from other departments about buying Limestone’s two police cruisers.

Once the station closes, Limestone will be responsible for keeping evidence stored in the event that a former officer needs to hand over evidence for a court trial, Cormier said.

He recommended the town allocate at least $10,000 in its upcoming fiscal year budget, in case further drug testing is required for certain evidence. Former officers might also be required to testify in court, for which they would need compensation, he said.

“COVID delayed a lot of drug trials that are just now happening,” Cormier said.

The select board thanked Cormier for his work and Pelletier for his 28 years of service as an officer.

“Over the past year, we turned over every stone for something we knew might not succeed,” said board member Chris Durepo. “It was a tough decision but we thank you for your dedication.”

Cormier is also a police sergeant in Fort Fairfield.

“This isn’t the outcome I wanted or intended, but it has been an honor to step in and try to make a difference,” he said.