PRESENT: Chairman Friedman, Councilor Cheney and Councilor Hogan, Town Manager B. Reed, Police Chief Mark Leonard, Office Administrator Julie Reed, Assistant Clerk K. Humphrey, Town Auditor Charemon Willey-Staples, Member of the Public Freeland Jones; Councilor Hathaway was absent and excused.
ITEM 1. The December 1, 2003 Veazie Town Council was called to order at 7:00 PM.
ITEM 2. Consideration of minutes: Motion: Councilor Hogan—to accept November 17, 2003 minutes as written. Seconded: Councilor Cheney , Voted 2-1-0 in favor. Chairman Friedman abstained due to his absence from the meeting.
ITEM 3. Consideration of the Agenda: Chairman Friedman wanted to thank Councilor Hogan for sitting in for him at the Veazie Senior Citizen meeting. He also thanked Manager Reed for attending as well. Chairman Friedman also extended his thanks to Councilor Hathaway for acting as Chairman in his absence at the last Council meeting.
Manager Reed stated that he had mentioned at the Senior Citizens meeting that the Council would like to put on a spaghetti dinner for them. Manager Reed is going to arrange a date for the dinner to take place with the Seniors.
ITEM 4a. Audit Update
Charemon Willey-Staples was present to give an overview of the audit. She stated the Town ended the year with a healthy fund balance even after the renovations the Town did to the municipal building. Councilor Hogan inquired how that was possible. Manager Reed explained that the Town had not used the overlay so it had built up. He also added that the TIF District funded half of the renovations. Manager Reed stated he would like to credit some of the fund balance back to a few reserve accounts which are low, for instance the school tuition reserve.
Charemon Willey-Staples reviewed the balance sheet with the Council. She stated that the Town had an excellent collection rate. She pointed out that the balance sheet will look different next year due to the implementation of GASB 34. There will no longer be general fixed assets and general long term debt.
Charemon Willey-Staples stated that the school lunch program had a loss again this year. Councilor Hogan inquired whether it was possible to fund the balance from the Town’s tax base. Charemon Willey-Staples stated that she has seen in a couple other SADs that they have brought the school lunch program into their appropriations.
Chairman Friedman recommended having Manager Reed contact the school to find out the cost of labor, fringe benefits, etc. and transfer monies from the fund balance into the program to take care of the deficit. It was the wishes of the Town Council for Manager Reed to meet with the superintendent.
Member of the public Freeland Jones asked if the price the school charged for lunch was above or below the State average. Charemon Willey-Staples stated that the lunch program is broken down into so many different categories (A La Cart, Milk Program, Breakfast Program) that it is hard to get a combined state average cost.
Charemon Willey-Staples reviewed the remainder financial statements with the Council. Councilor Hogan stated that he found the notes included in the audit helpful.
Charemon Willey-Staples stated that the education general fund should be increased. There were only two articles overdrawn this year, special assessments and public works, both have been addressed.
She stated that she has spoken with Deputy Clerk Beckie Woods and the purchase order system is working well.
The Council discussed sending out newsletters monthly from January through May to update Town residents on the budget process and such.
ITEM 4b. Parks & Recreation Department Workshop
Manager Reed stated that the Parks and Recreation Committee would not be present due to the passing of Joan Perkins mother, Jean Hamilton. Chairman Friedman called for a moment of silence in honor of Jean Hamilton’s past contributions to the Town of Veazie.
Member of the Public Freeland Jones asked if Maine Municipal Association had any recommendations or guidelines of which a town of a certain size should spend for each department. Manager Reed stated they have a relativity study and Veazie spends less than the State average in most categories.
ITEM 4c. MRC Ballot
Manager Reed explained that the MRC represents many of the Towns that ship to the incinerator plant in Orrington. The MRC monitors PERC (Penobscot Energy Recovery Company) for compliance with contracts and agreements on behalf of the membership communities. They also review and make recommendations on other solid waste related issues such as front end process residue, etc. Manager Reed explained that the Town usually sends in all of the Town’s votes as one unit for one person. Manager Reed collected the Councilor’s ballots.
ITEM 5a. Wage Study Update
Manager Reed gave the Town Council a summary of the data collection and evaluation process which is thefoundation of the proposed Police Department wage scale adjustment. The bulk of the information collected was from year end reports – June 2002. Maine Municipal Association provided tremendous data collection support for the project at a very minimal cost. Kate Dufour of MMA provided a great deal of the data collection. Manager Reed stated that he has data samples from some 102 communities for the police officer evaluation, 73 data samples for the position of sergeant, 41 data samples for the position lieutenant and 97 data samples for the position of Chief. Manager Reed explained the process he used to create a “Five Year Merit Step” wage table with CPI already adjusted
Manager Reed stated that currently the Police Chief is reviewing the draft wage scale revisions and the proposed merit step plan. The final proposal should be ready by the next Council meeting once the Police Department defines the merit levels in greater detail.
Councilor Cheney inquired whether it was true that the department had lost three officers. Chief Leonard stated that the department had lost four officers in the last 5 months. Three officers went to Orono and the fourth went to Ellsworth.
Councilor Cheney asked what the cut off was for overtime. Chief Leonard stated it is 84 hours bi-weekly.
Manager Reed stated that a lot of the experienced police officers from other departments have Maine State Retirement and when they see Veazie offers a 457 plan they decline because they do not wish to lose their MSR. The Chief and he are looking into this matter.
Chief Leonard stated the biggest reason for resignation other than pay is the lack of perceived community support at Town Meeting. Currently, the department is lacking a D.A.R.E. instructor as well as someone to attend the Senior Citizens meetings.
Councilor Hogan inquired whether Chief Leonard conducting exit interviews. Chief Leonard stated that he does. Councilor Hogan suggested not only asking why they are leaving but what could be done to help the problem.
Manager Reed outlined that if you eliminated the police department it would only drop the mill rate one mill, but then you have to pay for the Sheriff’s Department and they will charge a hefty fee.
Councilor Cheney stated that an officer had spoken with her and the lack of pay was a big reason for resignation. She stated that this issues should be at the top of the list for things to resolve.
ITEM 6. Public Comments:
Member of the public Freeland Jones inquired on his property tax foreclosure. It was suggested for him to come into the Town Office the next day to speak with Deputy Tax Collector Julie Reed for more information. It was noted that tax foreclosure letters would be sent out shortly.
ITEM 7. Manager’s Report:
The Council reviewed a copy of a letter from Susan Lessard, President of MMA, thanking Manager Reed for agreeing to complete the term of Lee Umphrey on the Legislative Policy Committee.
ITEM 8. Requests for Information/Council Comments: There were no requests for information or comments.
ITEM 9. Warrants: Town Warrant 11, Town Payroll Warrant 11, School Warrant 11, School Payroll Warrant 11, and School Lunch Warrant 11 were circulated and signed.
ITEM 10. Adjournment: Motion: Councilor Hogan —to adjourn the December 1, 2003 Town Council Meeting. Seconded: Councilor Cheney —there was no further discussion. Voted 3-0 Meeting adjourned at 8:50p.m.