Legislative bond could help fund new regional jail for Aroostook County

2 years ago

CARIBOU, Maine — A new police station being planned for Caribou might also include a modern regional jail for Aroostook County, if a funding proposal passes the state Legislature.

On Thursday, Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, submitted a legislative bond proposal of from $1 million to $2 million, which would cover construction costs for a new jail to be located inside Caribou’s future police station. 

The Caribou Police Department has been in dire need of a new station for several years. Originally built in 1939 and attached to the city jail, the station lacks sufficient space for evidence processing, case file storage and weapons and has many structural issues, including plumbing problems and mold. In June, Caribou voters approved the city spending no more than $10 million to design and construct the new station.

Although Caribou police already planned on constructing new jail cells for their own use, their design plans did not initially include a regional jail. But that concept was added after conversations with Jackson and other county law enforcement.

“Caribou is the only other facility in Aroostook [besides the Aroostook County Jail in Houlton] for holding prisoners,” said Caribou Police Chief Michael Gahagan. “[Sen. Jackson] knew that Caribou has been a place for holding prisoners from other communities.”

Jackson noted that the legislative funding would help Caribou reduce the financial burden on taxpayers for the new station. The initial $10 million price tag, which came from an original design proposal, had divided city councilors and voters until the election in June.

“With the current jail increasingly serving the entire region, it doesn’t make sense to force taxpayers in one municipality to pick up the tab,” Jackson said.

Gahagan said that the bond proposal has support from police chiefs in Presque Isle, Fort Fairfield, Ashland and Washburn, the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office and Maine State Police.

Jackson’s proposal marks the second time that Caribou’s new police station has garnered support from state and federal legislators.

Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Caribou native, visited Caribou Police and said that she’s “hopeful” her $2.5 million congressional spending request will pass the House and Senate in December. 

City officials are still in the process of putting out requests for design proposals, which will help them determine the final construction costs. 

Jackson did not indicate when the Maine Legislature might vote on the bond proposal.