An interview with Board of Selectmen Chair, Linda Chase

|Debra Smith, NGX| In mid-January, I sat down with Linda Chase for a conversation about what is happening in town hall, and the year ahead. The immediate challenges are the […]

|Debra Smith, NGX|

In mid-January, I sat down with Linda Chase for a conversation about what is happening in town hall, and the year ahead.

The immediate challenges are the hiring of a new town manager, the budget, and transitions in the NG Fire and Rescue. As of the date of this post, we have published a story about the NGFR including comments from Chase, and a story about the town manager search being managed by the Maine Municipal Association. As of Jan 31, town manager applications closed with 42 applicants. We hope to have more information about the search soon.

Town manager search
The ideal candidate, according to Chase, has “strong communication skills, leadership skills, and experience with HR and budgeting. Ideally, we would hire an experienced, professional town manager, but the pool of professional town managers has shrunk. When we hired our last town manager, we had 32 applications.” In the past, there would have been twice that many.

The search committee hadn’t been formalized yet. “It depends on how many applications we get.” Chase hopes to have the new town manager on board by May or June.

When we spoke, Chase was anticipating the start of the budget process later in January. “It will be a tough year,” she acknowledges.  Last year, the costs for the Fire & Rescue increased the budget substantially, and the board had to use $550,000 from undesignated funds to cover part of the budget gap, plus increase taxes. What will this mean down the road? Chase knows that the impact on taxes will continue to grow. “I won’t be able to live in New Gloucester,” she says, “the town will look very different than it does now.”

Revising ordinances, policies and job descriptions
Also underway are revisions to the Senior Tax Relief ordinance and the Public Safety ordinance, both of which failed at the most recent special town meeting last June. “We’ve been looking at what other towns have done,” regarding the senior tax relief ordinance, Chase said, “and they’ve had to tweak theirs too.” These will be on the warrant for the next town meeting.

Job descriptions for a number of positions have been revised and approved by the board. Chase is also overseeing the compilation of town policies in a central repository. “Some of these haven’t been updated since 1996/97. They need to be reviewed and updated every couple of years.”

Looking ahead
A year from now, Chase sees some important initiatives having been completed. “The DPW garage will be done and staff in place. We’ll have had a new town manager for nine months or so, so hopefully, smooth sailing… We’ll have MRI’s study [MRI is a consulting group that is evaluating various departments], and can address any key findings… We’ll also be looking at the transfer station and the municipal complex.”

Once the new public works garage is occupied, the old garage property in the Upper Village will be readied for sale, Chase said. A town-wide revaluation is proceeding, and the revised Comprehensive Plan will be approved by Town Meeting. The comprehensive plan is a town master plan for the next ten years. “How to get there without breaking the bank is the question,” says Chase.