Tag Archives: Selectmen

Tensions flare at NG meeting

By Matt Junker

NEW GLOUCESTER — The New Gloucester public works garage saga took a turn for the vulgar at Monday night’s Selectboard meeting, when several audience members used colorful language not usually on display at public meetings.

One audience member told another to “shut your [expletive] mouth,” while a third resident said certain accusations amounted to “bull[expletive].”

Tensions escalated to the point that Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office was called. An official from the Sherriff’s Office said that someone at the meeting apparently texted their husband to say things had become heated, and the husband then called the sheriffs.

Though a deputy came and stood in the meeting for a few minutes, things had already calmed down and the deputy left.

Both of the residents who used the less-than-cordial language apologized.

Accusations of a possible conflict of interest and misuse of town resources relating to the “vote yes” signs purchased before last week’s special town meeting made for a tense Oct. 23 selectboard meeting – and those tensions bubbled over in the audience.

Pat O’Brien introduced a petition to reconsider the results of the special town meeting, where voters approved the public works garage proposal 168-138.  The push to reconsider stems in part from allegations that came up at the town meeting that Ganneston Construction, the company slated to build the new garage, paid for signs encouraging people to vote yes, and that town public works staff later put some of those sign up.

Later, while another resident was at the microphone asking about the sign issue, O’Brien made a comment from his seat.

Dennis McCann, who was sitting behind O’Brien, told him, “You had your time to speak, sir.”

O’Brien then told McCann to “shut your [expletive] mouth.”

O’Brien said Wednesday that he felt McCann was threatening in both his language and demeanor and that McCann had made a number of comments to him on Monday night.

“I will defend myself,” O’Brien said. “This man was threatening to me.”

His comment to McCann elicited an immediate and fiery reaction from others in attendance, including calls to have O’Brien kicked out of the meeting.

McCann stood up, and at least one other audience member moved closer to O’Brien after his remarks and stood behind him. O’Brien said that “it didn’t feel safe to me in there.”

“Get out of here! Get him out of here,” shouted Beverly Cadigan, who served on the garage design committee and was one of the leaders of the first petition effort.

“That language is not allowed in this room,” said a clearly upset Libby, who served as a Selectboard liaison on the design committee.

Cadigan continued to push for O’Brien’s removal.

Earlier, during O’Brien’s time at the microphone, he wondered whether there were “favors” or “kick-backs” such as concert tickets, vacation packages, golf outings, or meals from Ganneston as part of the garage process.

Libby strongly denied that any such things occurred, and later said that misinformation circulated on social media “seems to have spread inappropriately like wildfire.”

“There was no concert tickets or any of that jazz that was listed off,” he said.

In her brief back-and-forth with O’Brien, Cadigan seemed agitated by his questions and suggestions about the committee.

“Who are you to talk to me that way?” O’Brien asked Cadigan as she was yelling for him to get out.

“I’m a citizen in this town, too, and I’m a committee member, and you just accused me of taking money that I didn’t,” Cadigan said.

“Potentially, you have,” O’Brien told her.

“Bull[expletive],” Cadigan responded forcefully.

Chase said she did not want any more of that type of language, and both Cadigan and O’Brien apologized. No one was kicked out.

O’Brien said after leaving the meeting later in the night that his language was “inappropriate.”

“I apologize for that,” he said, also saying that Cadigan’s language was “equally inappropriate.”

“Emotions are running high,” continued O’Brien.

McCann said he thought that O’Brien’s language was “a little hostile” but didn’t seem particularly bothered by it after the meeting. McCann also stood up at one point during the special town meeting last week when another resident mentioned him by name.

Kathleen Potter, one of the self-described “old ladies” (including Cadigan) who led the initial citizen’s petition to hold the special town meeting, said McCann helped collect some of the signatures for that effort.

Potter also said that this issue has “frayed the nerves of the community” like she had never seen before in the 15 years she’s lived in town.

During Monday night’s discussion, Libby said he was “disgusted” by the level of “hate and discontent” surrounding the garage issue.

“We’ve had emotional issues in the past, but people haven’t reacted this way,” Libby said after Monday’s meeting.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Outbursts Erupt at the Oct. 23 Special Board of Selectmen’s Meeting

Controversy over the proposed new public works facility continued at the Oct. 23 Special Board of Selectmen’s meeting. You can watch it as video on demand at https://newgloucester.viebit.com/

Annual Town Meeting Wrap Up in Sun Journal

New Gloucester voters ban retail marijuana

Ellie Fellers, Special to the Sun Journal

NEW GLOUCESTER — Voters at town meeting Monday banned retail marijuana establishments and retail marijuana social clubs in town.

Two members of a committee tasked with coming up with a townwide ordinance on the issue agreed that the ban could be lifted once state rules governing such establishments were approved to guide the town.

“This issue is extremely important to our quality of life and public safety,” said committee member Richard Maguire, a retired state trooper. “I ask you to keep New Gloucester clean of drugs. Keep our children free. It’s a very serious issue and it affects you. It’s about the children, our children and children’s children.”

Member Peter Bragdon agreed with the ban.

“There will be an ordinance after the state comes up with rules,” he said. “Let the state establish standards.”

For now, retail marijuana establishments, including stores, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities and testing facilities, and social clubs are banned.

In another issue, residents voted 66-44 to approve an ordinance limiting selectmen to three consecutive terms. After an absence of three years, they may run for and hold the office again.

Read more http://www.sunjournal.com/news/lewiston-auburn/2017/05/01/new-gloucester-passes-retail-marijuana-ordinance/2122353

Why Should NG Adopt Term Limits for Selectmen?

New Gloucester voters will have a chance to weigh in on whether or not to adopt an ordinance establishing term limits for selectmen at our Town Meeting on Monday, May 1.

How does it work?

If enacted, a member of the Board of Selectmen would serve no more than three consecutive three-year terms. After an interval of at least three years, the former selectman may run for and hold the office of selectmen again. Keep in mind that during this absence, he or she is free to apply to serve on other Town boards and committees, if they so choose.

How many years have the longest-serving board members been in office?

One board member has served since 2001. When his term is up in 2019, he would have been on the board for 18 continuous years. Another has served since 2006. When her term is up in 2018, she would have been on the board for 12 continuous years.

Would they be permitted to run again when their terms expire, if they so choose?

No, there is a retroactivity clause in the ordinance.

Why not just vote out a selectman when his or her term expires?

Voting on selectmen occurs at the June election when turnout is historically low. Many times the turnout is at the 15-20% level, and the election is decided by just a handful of voters. The possible reason that a candidate may win is because they are adept at ‘get-out-the-vote’ efforts, rather than being a reflection of job approval ratings by the citizenship at large.

Why would term limits benefit the Town?

Term limits would likely cultivate a healthy balance of fresh perspective and institutional knowledge among board members.

If term limits were enacted, would it produce a shortage of candidates in ensuing elections?

During the last six years (and perhaps in prior years), there has been ample interest shown in running for this office, as evidenced by the fact that the number of candidates has outnumbered the number of open seats. In both 2011 and 2014, two candidates ran for 1 open seat; and in each of the years 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016, four candidates ran for two open seats.

Is the ordinance legal?

The citizen’s petition, which contained the ordinance, passed legal muster by Town Attorney Philip Saucier of Bernstein Shur in January 2017.

BOS calls for moratorium on retail marijuana establishments

Selectmen at their Oct 17th meeting signed a special town meeting warrant to establish a 180-day moratorium on marijuana retail establishments and social clubs.The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2, at Memorial School on Route 231.

Resident George Colby said he supported the moratorium.

By a 3-1 vote, the board agreed to bring the issue to voters before the Nov. 8 referendum, in case a citizen initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational use by adults passes.

Selectman Stephen Hathorne said he opposed the moratorium based on smoking laws that ban tobacco use, but in this case would allow smoking marijuana in social clubs.

In other business, the board accepted a tax-increment financing amendment for the Pineland District. A public hearing and vote by residents will be scheduled. The document will be submitted to the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development for final approval.

This is the first amendment to the Pineland Municipal Development program since its adoption in August 2001, slated to run for 30 years. The TIF captures 100 percent of increased assessed value of taxable real property in the district in a segregated account for costly items from the development of the Pineland District.

The amendment is proposed for the purpose of adding new municipal projects to the development program, including a prorated portion of the costs of a new Public Works facility, municipal indebtedness and other financing costs associated with the project such as professional services.

The board also opened four closed bids for timber to be harvested using whole-tree timber harvesting equipment at 611 Lewiston Road. It’s a 25-acre site that includes the Fire Department complex and the preferred site of the town’s future highway department.

Paul Larrivee, a licensed forester who marked and assessed the trees for the board, will make a recommendation for the finalist Nov. 2.

Bidders included M.H. Humphrey and Sons of Parsonsfield; M.W. Trucking and Logging of Norway; Mark Andrews of West Paris; and Jim Everett and Sons of Waterford.

Mikayla Trafford was confirmed as the animal control officer for the town. She will also serve the town of Gray after she completes a weeklong training program in Orono.

 

Ellie Fellers, the SunJournal

Town receives grants for library, fairgrounds improvements

Grants to pay for improvements to the New Gloucester Fairgrounds and renovate the town library were among topics at theBoard of  Selectmen’s March 21st  meeting. Keep reading

Town Election

Polls will be open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Tuesday, June 9, for the town election, which will be held at the New Gloucester Fire Station, 611 Lewiston Road.

There are two MSAD 15 referendum questions. Question 1 is a budget validation vote. Question 2 pertains to funding county sheriff services for the 2015-2016 school year.

There are two openings on the New Gloucester Board of Selectmen, two openings on the MSAD 15 Board of Directors, and one opening on the New Gloucester Water District Board of Trustees. Note that only citizens who reside within the town’s water district may vote for water board candidates.

Click on the “Elections” sidebar at www.newgloucester.com to view sample ballots and obtain an application for an absentee ballot.

Make It So Tomorrow

If you weren’t planning on voting tomorrow, change your mind.

If you’ve voted for years and have given up trying to make a change on the New Gloucester Board of Selectmen, vote tomorrow, one more time.

If you are new to town and assume that your new home is governed with an even hand and has the trust of all, well, sorry – but you can make it so.

Imagine a Board of Selectmen comprised of current members Josh McHenry and Laura Jane Sturgis; two new members equally dedicated to open discussion, fair treatment, careful research and considered decisions; and Steve Libby. If Libby is willing to contribute his knowledge without having to control all outcomes, and keep his actions within the bounds of ethics, we could have a very interesting and productive Board of Selectmen that everyone could trust.

Wouldn’t THAT be something?

However, the Libby faction, who gave us illegal executive sessions, lawsuits against the town, the previous town manager’s golden parachute, and mistreatment of town staff; who favor  control over collaboration, who rewrite history when it suits them, and who limit information when they can – this persistent threesome of Libby + 2, are counting on low turnout to keep the oligarchy going – and more of the same.

Yes, there are 5 candidates vying for 2 seats, and the “vote for change” will apparently be split between three engaged and independent candidates, all with excellent credentials: Stephen Hathorne, Kathleen Potter, and Jean Couturier.  Logically, if a small coordinated group votes for re-runs Chase and Conger, and a similarly small but uncoordinated group split their two votes between three new candidates, the status quo will continue.

So – a new outcome depends upon a significantly larger number of individual voters in New Gloucester making it a point to vote for two new selectmen from the three new names.

It can happen, one vote at a time.

It really is up to you.

And won’t it be something to make that kind of difference right where you live?

Let’s do this! Couturier, Potter, Hathorne – pick two, and VOTE!

 

Lead, Listen, Administer, and Supervise: NG Selectmen Candidates Forum

On May 29, the four registered candidates for two seats on the New Gloucester Board of Selectmen participated in a live televised Candidates Forum, hosted by the New Gloucester Cable TV Committee, and moderated by Beverly Caddigan. All questions from the public, both submitted in advance to the Cable TV Committee, and asked live at the event, were answered by each candidate in turn.

The questions concerned:

  1. the greatest issues confronting the town;
  2. positions regarding the eradication of the personal income tax by the state, and how it would impact the town;
  3. whether or not the voters should be given the opportunity to increase the dollar amount of individual articles presented a town meeting, and not just (as now) decrease;
  4. why the townspeople passed a recall ordinance last year, and why it has not been used as yet;
  5. whether our volunteer firefighters should be paid more, and if so, where the money would come from;
  6. proposals for improving relations between the town and school district
  7. when it is appropriate for a selectman to abstain from voting;
  8. whether the town should consider a dedicated police department; and
  9. whether all selectmen are equal, if they should all get information at the same time, and what their role is.

In order to give a better idea of who voters are deciding between, this summary of answers is grouped by candidate, rather than by question.

Kathleen Potter

Kathleen Potter cited before issues of revenue and taxes, a lack of trust as the major issue facing the town. “The selectmen don’t trust each other, the public doesn’t trust the selectmen, the school board doesn’t trust the selectmen… people are unhappy here,” she said. “Enough of the pettiness.”

Potter agreed with other candidates that the question about the abolishment of state income tax was “hypothetical,” but said “It would not be a pretty picture if it passes – it would be devastating.”

Potter supported the idea of returning the ability to raise dollar amounts on articles at town meeting to the town meeting voters. “I  trust the voters… I do not see a problem in having an open budget,” she said, adding “It’s your responsibility to go to Town Meeting.”

With regard to the Recall Ordinance enacted in 2013, Potter says it passed  because it was “sound and legal,” and has not been used yet “because no one has found any [behavior] meeting the criteria for it to be used – and that’s admirable.”

Potter argued that property-owners in New Gloucester would see better insurance rates if the town had a full-time fire department. She called the current firefighters’ stipend “shameful,” and said “we should pay them.”

Regarding relations with the school department, Potter, who has served on the SAD 15 Board of Directors, said the town should appoint a liaison to SAD 15 with the charge of staying in regular communication through the year.

Potter cited Maine Municipal Association guidelines regarding selectmen abstaining from votes in matters where there may  be a conflict of interest, personal or fiduciary. In all other instances, said Potter, “It is your duty as selectman to be involved, up to date, aware and appropriately educated on every subject.”

It was Potter’s opinion that “as the town grows, New Gloucester will be looking at creating a town police department,” not least because of the “town’s proximity to the turnpike and out of state drug traffic,” which, she said, is already accounting for frequent drug busts.

Potter emphasized that the Board of the Selectmen should be a collaborative body of equal members who receive all the same information at the same time with regard to town business, with the duty to “administrate the business of the community,” and look out for its “safety and well-being.”

Stephen Hathorne

Describing himself as “a proud townie,” Hathorne said the major problem facing the town now is the division that has developed. “We need to find common ground, middle ground, to get trust in our leaders back.”

Hathorne said he would “abstain” from answering the question about abolishment of the state income tax as it was “a hypothetical.”

As for allowing voters to raise dollar amounts on articles at town meeting, Hathorne was adamantly in favor of returning to that format. “The taxpayer has one day to say yes or no to what the town is doing. It’s their say, it’s their day.” He added that he would also like to see the town meeting return to the full community gathering it once was, on a Saturday, with time for a meal served by a community organization so people could “break bread, and build community.”

Hathorne said he’d been involved in the citizen’s Recall Ordinance effort as well as on the ad hoc committee appointed to create a version for the selectmen to submit, because “we needed a tool.” He noted that the citizens version “passed by overwhelming majority.” As for it not being employed to date, he compared it to “the spatula in the drawer,” and how “you’d smarten up” once “Mother” took it out.

“We’ve had free services since 1929,” Hathorne said about town firefighters. “It’s time we talked about paying some hourly rate for training.” He added later in the forum that the retirement of the debt for the new fire station in 2018 will likely  be eaten up immediately by a new town garage, so shouldn’t be dangled as a time of easy funding for a fire department or police. In regard to that town garage and possible development of the Upper Village, he said that the garage should stay “where it is: we’ve polluted the water, we own it,” and should not risk polluting the other site being talked about, behind Memorial School on Rowe Station Road, or beside the new fire station, which he says is “the Ft. Knox of clean water” for New Gloucester.

With regard to relations between the Board of Selectmen and the School Board, Hathorne said he had seen “something said” at a selectmens’ meeting,” from behind the desk” that contributed to bad feelings, and admonished that selectmens’ meetings “were not the proper place to air grievances.”

Re abstaining from a vote, Hathorne said a selectman should abstain for conflicts of interest, and should give the reason for abstaining at the time of the vote.

Hathorne suggested that hiring a town constable might be a feasible way for the town to provide residents with some protection against break-ins during regular working hours, and to nab speeders on certain stretches in town.

“The eyes, the ears, and the father of the community, ” is how Hathorne described the role of selectman. “You need to take care of the people who put you there, openly and honestly.”  With regard to equality among the selectmen, Hathorne says “We should definitely be equal, whether they have been there 1 year or 3 years – anyone who thinks differently probably shouldn’t be sitting with us…”

Jean Couturier

Couturier cited “transparency in government” and preserving a low property tax as the major issues facing the town.

Calling any indication of position regarding the abolishment of personal income taxes “political,” Couturier said he preferred to address the question as to what the town’s options would be if any revenue sources were discontinued, and said that the town would have to decide between difficult options like cutting staff, cutting services, and raising taxes.

Letting individuals increase the dollar figures of articles at town meeting would be “dangerous,” according to Couturier. A member of several town committees involved with budgeting and planning, he defended the current process that results in the figures set on the town warrant.

Regarding the Citizen’s Recall Ordinance, Couturier said it had “put the selectmen on notice that the people would not accept real or perceived improprieties,” and that since adoption, the people had not “seen actions meeting the threshold.”

Couturier said he thought it would be appropriate for the town to make “a small increase” to firefighters stipends, paid through taxation, in the short term; and that a committee should be appointed to look at the possibility of instituting salaries, and the implication for the town budget. He suggested that it might be feasible financially to take some action after 2018, when the debt on the new fire station is retired.

Couturier recommended that the town formalize regular reports to the selectmen  all liaisons and committees, and suggested that the selectmen should participate more in all municipal and district events.

Conflating “recusing” and “abstaining” from votes, Couturier suggested that the town should develop an ordinance that enumerates the reasons that a selectperson could or should not vote on issues before the BOS.

Noting that the town “is struggling to put money in capital accounts,” and may face the problems raised by abolishment of the state income tax, Couturier said it would be difficult to think about establishing a police department at this time, especially with the costs of start-up; but agreed with Steve Hathorne who suggested that creating a town constable position might be more appropriate.

Linda Chase (incumbent)

Unlike the other candidates, Chase did not agree that any division among the NG community, or voter distrust of town government, was a major issue. She suggested that any sense of distrust was the result of people not knowing enough about what was going on, not asking enough questions – or not actually about town government at all. “Sometimes they’re just not happy with what’s going on in their life and are looking for a way to fix it.” Her main focus, she said, was not having property taxes go up.

Regarding the elimination of personal income tax, Chase said “It’s way too early to tell,” and that she hoped that the impact on the town would be considered before action was taken.

Chase was opposed to returning to the past practice of allowing voters at town meeting to raise the dollar amount of any articles, arguing that the majority of the voters who do not attend town meeting are in favor of the budget as presented, and would not get say in the discussion.

Chase’s explanation for the success of the Citizens Recall Ordinance last year was “it passed because of the will of the people,” and she assumed that it wasn’t used because “the people are not dissatisfied with what is happening.”

Chase said she was in favor of increasing the hourly wage of firefighters by way of a “well-thought -0ut plan” that would be the result of input from many parties, and “well-vetted.”

Regarding improving relations between the town and the school district, Chase disagreed with the characterization of it as “adversarial,” asserted that regular communication takes place between the BOS and  SAD 15 leadership, and advised voters to “go to the meetings.”

Chase asserted that selectmen can abstain from voting “if they don’t have all the facts.”

Chase indicated that while the town is “moving in the direction” of a dedicated police station, “at this point it makes more sense to have a paid fire/EMS” department.

“Each of the selectman are equal, and they should have the same information,” Chase stated, with the caveat that as a function of their positions, each selectman will know more about the committees with whom they are liaisons. Selectmen have equal responsibility toward town staff and the community, she said, and their role is “to listen, act, protect, and serve the community.”

A video of the complete 90 min. forum is available at http://newgloucester.pegcentral.com/player.php?video=f0f2a30a824b0521dfb555526f6be9d7

 

Selectmen Meeting