Government Spotlight

Select board: Updates, new items, a return to in-person meetings

| Joanne Cole |

A different Zoom format debuted on June 7 for what might be its first–and last–appearance at a select board meeting, as the board voted unanimously to resume in-person meetings effective immediately. The board returned to the salt and sand shed in the Upper Village and a resident’s offer to purchase the ‘town forest’ parcels, and considered several new matters.

Manager’s update. Town manager Christine Landes reported that the town continues to be “in great financial shape” nearing the end of the fiscal year. In addition, some $580,000 in federal American Rescue Plan funds is headed this way, over two years, with a variety of possible uses, such as infrastructure upgrades, support for small businesses and non-profits, and possibly municipal tax reduction. “Stay tuned for more information,” Landes said.

In other news, Bennett Road will be closed for 56 days of MDOT bridge work, starting June 21, public works director Ted Shane clarified. Landes said an animal control officer and public works employee have been hired; searches for code enforcement officer, town planner, and another public works position are under way.

Fairgrounds parking, potties, pups. Public comment opened with a request from Scott Liberty that the Fairgrounds be restricted to residents/taxpayers’ exclusive use, at least on Sundays. Liberty said he and his wife like to use the track on weekends but are encountering jammed parking, trash-filled porta potties, dog feces. Adult football players from other towns are using the field, he said, and being charged “peanuts.” Residents and taxpayers should be able to “enjoy our property,” Liberty said. “We own it.”

Later, Parks and Recreation director Sarah Rodriguez acknowledged that Fairgrounds usage is creating parking and other challenges. She will monitor the situation and investigate more-frequent cleaning of the porta potties.

Public works deputy director job description. Public works director Shane and manager Landes had proposed that the board revise the job description of the deputy director position, currently vacant, and change the title to foreman. “Foreman” might attract more applicants and better reflect the position’s day-to-day jobsite supervisory responsibilities, Shane explained. After discussion, the board voted to change the job description as proposed but retain the deputy director title.

Salt and sand shed in the Upper Village. In a memo to the board, manager Landes had shared news that, after investigating costs of removal and other expenses, the Town of Lisbon might not want the old salt and sand structure, much less pay New Gloucester anything for it. At the meeting, Landes said she’d received email inquiries from two other interested parties.

Citing other, more pressing items for the town to tackle, vice chair Linda Chase was ready to move on. She proposed a June 21 deadline (the board’s next meeting) for Lisbon and anyone else to commit to taking the structure. A question about the value of the metal in the building followed. Director Shane noted that the metal is 29 years old and a crane would be needed to dismantle the structure and save the metal, a breakeven proposition in his view. The board asked for details on that and for follow-up with Lisbon and any interested others.

Recycling info. Responding to questions from citizens about the value—or not—of sorting and recycling at the Transfer Station, Shane had prepared a detailed memo that was included in the agenda packet. At the meeting Shane underscored the memo’s bottom line: only recycled cans yield any revenue; everything else that we sort—cardboard, paper, plastic, glass—costs money to be hauled away. The alternative, heaving everything but cans into the hopper, would fill the compactor too quickly, Shane said, likely resulting in early closing on Saturdays and additional costly weekday haul-offs.

Background checks for board and committee applicants. The board wanted more details before acting on a proposal from manager Landes that would have applicants to town boards and committees authorize a background check. The question arose, Landes explained to the board, regarding volunteers working with children; the draft also mentioned handling of funds.

Board members had questions. Would the requirement apply to all committees, Tammy Donovan wanted to know, or just some, like the parks and rec and the community fair committees? Linda Chase wondered how results would be kept confidential and how ineligibility would be defined. For example, Chase asked, could a sex offender serve on the budget committee?

The board tasked Landes with developing a fuller policy and procedures, possibly also covering applicants for town employment. Consent to a background check isn’t currently required of all applicants for town jobs.

Offer for “the town forest” parcels declined for now. Following up on Richard McCann’s recent offer to purchase two town-owned lots known as the town forest, Landes had prepared memo with deeds, map, and assessed valuation data. The land is near the turnpike and was reportedly acquired with the restriction that it not be re-sold by the town, a condition Landes could not verify in town meeting notes, the then-manager’s recollection, or other sources. The board didn’t make any definitive decision, instead agreeing to inform McCann that the town is not interested in selling at this time. As a relative of McCann’s, Linda Chase abstained from the vote.

New flag pole at Town Hall complex. Manager Landes and board members expressed appreciation to the Historical Society for donating for a new flag pole. It will be located behind Town Hall, near what has become the new main entrance, a spot that is both practical (the tree out front has been ripping the flags) and consistent with proper flag etiquette, according to Landes.

Spirit of America Award. Landes urged the board to honor an exemplary citizen with the Spirit of America Award, presented in many Maine communities to recognize and encourage volunteerism. The volunteer work needn’t necessarily be town-related but rather than be anything a resident gives their time and energy for, Landes said. The board liked the idea. Landes will share additional information with the community and invite nominations.

In-person meetings to resume immediately. The board voted unanimously that all town boards and committees resume meeting in person, effective immediately. A new live-streaming service, “Town Hall Streams,” will also roll out that permits citizens without cable to watch meetings online in real time. However, the new platform won’t allow viewers to speak, member Peter Bragdon said. He noted that Gray’s set-up does allow citizens to call in and comment.

To watch the full June 7 select board meeting, click here. For the full agenda, memos, and other supporting documentation, click here.