Sheriff Philip Cote of York County, Maine, says now is the time to regionalize the county's municipal police departments and charge a premium price for the sheriff's patrol services.

During his recent election campaign, Cote says, it became clear that voters want tax relief and would be receptive to the idea of regionalization to accomplish that.

But County Commissioner Joseph Hanslip doesn't think municipal police departments will be as agreeable to regionalization under county government.

Regionalization requires towns to give up some of their independence in exchange for more efficiency and lower taxes.

Cote's is not the only county in Maine looking at consolidating police forces. Five Cumberland County towns are considering creating a single police department to save money. Yarmouth, Freeport, North Yarmouth, Cumberland, and Falmouth have set up a task force with representatives from each town to research the idea.

In York County, the sheriff's department provides patrol services for 14 communities that do not have their own police departments. However, all 29 communities pay the same amount for services, even though some rarely or never use them. Cote says there needs to be a more equitable method, such as contracting out deputies to towns that reach a certain population. Further, Cote says providing patrol services is becoming more expensive and regionalizing patrols might keep them from being cut back due to budget constraints.

Cote says he will suggest to commissioners that a task force be set up to look at ways to regionalize the sheriff's department and other services.

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