PRESENT: Chairman Perkins, Councilor Hathaway, Councilor Friedman, Councilor King, Councilor Parker, Manager W. Reed, Deputy Clerk K. Humphrey, Parks & Recreation Director R. Young, Police Chief M. Leonard, Assessor/CEO A. Thomas, Fire Chief G. Martin, Office Administrator J. Reed, Public Works Director B. Free, Superintendent K. Clenchy, Principal S. Nichols, Members of the Community Center Redevelopment Advisory Committee, Members of the Public
ITEM 1. The January 4, 2010 Veazie Town Council meeting was called to order at 7:00PM.
ITEM 2. Consideration of the Minutes
The Councilors requested some changes to the December 7, 2009 council meeting minutes.
Councilor Friedman outlined that it was he who wanted Mr. Kennedy to attend the January meeting. Councilor Perkins stated that he wanted Mr. Kennedy to attend the February meeting and he never thought the Council had come to any decision on when he should be invited to attend.
Councilor King outlined that there had been a conversation on the price of swapping equipment in the cruisers and he would like to see that in the minutes.
Chairman Perkins stated that under item 5a he would like insert the statement that he encouraged Chief Leonard to keep the cruiser in Veazie as much as possible. He outlined that there had been discussion about the cruiser being seen in other towns and at restaurants.
Chairman Perkins also requested to have on record in the last paragraph under item 8 that “after discussion Chairman Perkins reiterated that he still believed that the Town could have legally done a better job of working with the Veazie Sewer District on the Crowe property matter.” He outlined that that he and the Town Manager are at a disagreement on this matter.
The Council requested to see a revised copy of the minutes before voting to accept the minutes “as revised.”
ITEM 3. Consideration of the Agenda
Chairman Perkins requested adding an item to discuss Mutton Lane. This was added as item 4c. He also wanted to discuss the budget process and getting started on it, this was added as item 4d.
Councilor Hathaway stated he would like to discuss possibly going back to bi-weekly meetings. This was added as item 4e.
ITEM 4a. RSU Funding Update
Superintendent Kelly Clenchy and Finance Director Doug Smith were present to give an RSU funding update. Superintendent Clenchy outlined that the school board had worked very hard with the Town to develop reserve funds for the school for tuition costs and unforeseen capital expenditures. Over past six years we have built up funds in case anything ever happened and now those funds need to be transferred to the new RSU. Superintendent Clenchy outlined that the amount was roughly around $392,000 and it would be broken into thirds and used over three years to help reduce the cost assessed to Veazie.
Superintendent Clenchy outlined that there is a rapid decline in funds for schools to operate. They have never faced this kind of challenge that they are going to face in the coming year. He stated that they will have to find a way to continue to provide quality education with less money. There is a curtailment of $295,000 this year and there will be a similar lost next year.
Chairman Perkins inquired on how much State appropriation there is just for Veazie. Superintendent Clenchy outlined that appropriations for Veazie were around $4.8 - $4.9 million and half of that is State appropriations.
Chairman Perkins inquired on the kind of impact there will be from the State adopting the federal guidelines on special education. Superintendent Clenchy stated that he is a little cautious because these new regulations will not be written in stone for a year. One student might fall under the criteria now but a year from now they may not. He added that he is satisfied with the criteria they had been using.
Councilor Hathaway asked if the audit had been completed. Manager Reed stated that he is meeting with the auditor on Thursday to discuss some issues.
Councilor Friedman asked if the auditor was holding up the transfer. Manager Reed stated that she was not. Superintendent Clenchy added that they had some issues with the American Recovery and Restoration Act Grant and being required to put the funds into federal accounts. This hindered the RSU from getting the required information to Town Staff.
Councilor Friedman inquired on what kind of time frame they were looking at. Manager Reed said within a month the transfer should be done. Councilor Friedman asked Superintendent Clenchy and Mr. Smith if this was their time frame as well. Superintendent Clenchy and Mr. Smith both concurred on this time frame and acknowledged that they knew the audit needed to be completed first.
The Town Council reconfirmed the direction that the School Committee had agreed upon that the final amount be divided into three equal amounts and will be used to reduce Veazie’s future assessment costs to the RSU.
Superintendent Clenchy noted that this year they would like to coincide with the Town for their budget referendum and have it the same time as the municipal election.
ITEM 4b. Purchasing Policy
Manager Reed outlined that he had sent the Town attorney three different purchase policies and this is the one he sent back for review. The Town attorney had taken parts from all three.
Councilor Friedman outlined that the policy does not once mention the municipal officers approving anything. Nor does it mention the municipal officers being notified about purchases. He stated he would like a purchase policy that involved the municipal officers in the purchasing of items for the Town.
He outlined that purchases from $0 - $2,500 did not require formal bidding and he would like to see it require it. He also wanted a sentence in there that says the purchasing agent will notify the municipal officers prior to any purchase of $500 - $1500 so they are at least aware of it. He would also like to see an explanation and justification for these purchases.
Councilor Hathaway outlined that what was depicted here was totally different then the Town’s charter. No where in the policy does the Town Council have any say or authority. He stated he remembered there being a purchase value that needed to come before the Town Council for authorization. He added that the values were significantly higher than he’s like to see and he’d like them to be scaled back and get the Council more involved.
Manager Reed outlined that there was nothing in the Town Charter that specified anything about values and purchasing, he and the Town attorney went through it together.
Chairman Perkins stated that when he read this policy he was really disappointed. He outlined that he thought the direction the Council gave Manager Reed was that the Council wanted to “rubberstamp” purchases and they wanted to know what was going on with purchases.
Manager Reed outlined that this was just a building block, it just depends on how much information the Council wants to receive. He outlined that the Council is a policy board, it is not involved in the day to day operation of the government, that is what management and staff is for.
Councilor Friedman stated that he knew what his role as a Councilor was. He outlined that the Council just wants to know what the Town is spending. The Council represents the people and they need to know so that when residents ask they have an answer for them.
Chairman Perkins stated that he remembers incidents where the Town has made purchases and Councilor King or Councilor Parker had some ideas for better deals or vendors. Sometimes more people involved can be a pain but sometimes good ideas could come from it.
Chairman Perkins stated that he had a big problem with part D of the policy. He wants the Council to be involved in choosing contracted services. He’d hate for the Town to adopt a document that has loop holes it.
Councilor Hathaway stated that he didn’t have a problem with the policy in general but he does have a problem with the values and not involving the Council. A purchase of $25,000 or over should be initiated with the Council and the Council should be able to say whether it’s a good time for the purchase. He would like the Council to be involved in all capital expenditures.
Chairman Perkins stated they would table the issue and give any suggestions to Manager Reed for a revised policy.
ITEM 4c. Mutton Lane Discussion
Chairman Perkins asked who was responsible for plowing Mutton Lane. Superintendent of Public Works Butch Free outlined that he has never been responsible for plowing it, however he has done it on a few occasions due to public safety. CEO/Assessor Allan Thomas outlined that the Town owns the road. Manager Reed explained that the road is not an town accepted road. Chairman Perkins outlined that since the residents on the road are taxpayers shouldn’t the Town plow it. Manager Reed outlined that the road doesn’t come close to town specifications and he’s not sure if it even meets dirt road standards. Councilor Parker outlined that the residents bought the land knowing it was a right of way.
Chairman Perkins inquired whether the Town was opening itself up to liability by fixing it. There were questions on entering a private property to access the road, and public safety vehicles being able to get up there and liabilities. Manager Reed will consult the Town attorney on all issues and report back to the Council.
ITEM 4d. Budget Discussion
Chairman Perkins outlined that it is always discussed about starting the budget process earlier but it never quite happens. Would like to see it happen this year. He also outlined that some of the members of the Budget Committee feel like a “rubberstamp” committee.
It was discussed that the Budget Committee and the Town Council would like to see a line item budget for expenditures.
Manager Reed stated there was a budget meeting schedule in their packet. The next scheduled meeting is January 25th and he will talk with the committee and see what they would like to do. He also outlined that he could understand how it might seem like “rubberstamping” when over the past three years the work projects and work programs have remained the same due to the LD1 cap. The budgets have not really changed.
Chairman Perkins noted that there were no meetings in February or March and that’s time they could be meeting. He would like to see the department heads put something together and come present it to the committee. Manager Reed outlined that the department heads develop their budgets during February/March.
Councilor Friedman stated that he would like to have the department heads present their expense sheets with justifications in February. He gave an example of a line item for training and travel for $2,000. He would like to know where the training is and what the travel expense is. He wants to know how they are coming to that amount of $2,000.
Councilor Parker stated that he would like to see more detail on purchase orders and the line item that it is coming out of.
Councilor Friedman stated that the Council would just like to see the thought process and justification of line items. He wants them to be able to answer the public’s questions.
Councilor Friedman inquired whether all employees receive the same benefits. He would like to take a look at the benefit package.
Chairman Perkins stated he would to se the compensation and detailed benefit package for every town employee part time and full time.
Councilor Hathaway outlined that this brings him to his next topic, that once a month meetings are not working. He outlined that next year there will be an 18% increase from the county and the RSU is losing State Aid to Education. The Town needs to look at ways to spend its money efficiently and spend less of it. These things need to be talked about, however, the next meeting isn’t until February.
CEO/Assessor Allan Thomas recommended have their meetings on the 1st and 3rd Monday of each month that way the Planning Board could continue to have their meetings on the second Monday of the month rather than having to alternate between the first and second Monday of each month.
There was discussion on the involvement of the Council in the budget processing. Councilor Friedman stated that he would like the department heads to present their budgets to the Council. Councilor Friedman outlined that he would like to be a participating member. Councilor Parker suggested the Council meet with the Budget Committee and invite them to a meeting. Manager Reed stated that they can have the Budget Committee or at least a member of the Budget Committee attend Council meetings to give the Council an update. It was also outlined that Council members are welcome to attend the Budget Committee’s meetings.
Manager Reed outlined that it was the duty of the Budget Committee to develop the budget. In the past the Council acted as the Budget Committee when no members could be recruited.
Manager Reed outlined that there will be a department head meeting on Tuesday, January 5th and they will be discussing making cuts in their budgets.
Chairman Perkins outlined that he would like to see the Budget Committee get a lot of details on the budget.
Chairman Perkins reiterated that he would like to see detailed compensation and benefits packages for all of the employees.
Councilor Hathaway outlined that it sounded like the Council was picking pieces. He suggested starting right from the beginning and going down through and having a greater understanding of each and every component. He outlined that maybe there was a reason behind the request, but why selectively go after certain aspects, why not look at the whole picture from start to finish in much greater detail. He’d like to see it this way so he can make an informed decision on what has to go and what has to stay.
ITEM 4e. Council Meeting Schedul
Councilor Hathaway outlined that once a month meetings are not sufficient enough. There are things that they don’t spend enough time on. He stated that he would like to see the Council go back to the same meeting schedule of meeting on warrant Mondays. He added that it is a lot easier to cancel a meeting then it is to schedule one.
Motion By: Councilor Hathaway—to change the Council meetings back to a bi-weekly schedule effective Monday, January 18th, however where the next meeting falls on a holiday the meeting will held on Tuesday, January 19th. Seconded: Councilor Friedman, Voted 5-0 in favor.
ITEM 5a. Community Center Advisory Committee Update
Donald MacKay, Chair of the Community Center Redevelopment Advisory Committee was present as well as other members of the committee to give an update on where they are. He outlined that they started having meetings in October. They have almost completed their public input phase. He passed out a Draft Raw List of Public Input to the councilors. The next phase is to take everything they have learned and develop a plan for the Council. He outlined that they deviated from the plan a little, they have moved faster on gathering funding. Currently they are working on a grant. In August the committee is planning on submitting a final plan to the Council.
Donald MacKay pointed out that about 95% of the suggestions from the public were community activities or recreational activities. There is a strong desire to have a building that improves the life of residents. They want a multi-use building for all ages. Donald MacKay outlined that the committee knows it can’t accommodate all ideas but their job is to do the best they can and with Jason Bird’s help of EMDC they will prioritize the uses.
Donald MacKay stated that they have solicited bids from five different firms. In order to apply for the grants they need to know the cost of improvements.
ITEM 5b. Eastern Maine School of Self Defense – Community Center Tenant
Glen Kennedy outlined that he wasn’t exactly sure why he had been invited to the Council meeting but was sure it had to do with the rental situation. He outlined that he had met with Town staff and worked things out. He added that the amount that he was given seemed pretty high, however there were some items/work done that had not been subtracted out. He outlined that normally he submits a bill for that he fixes that would go towards rent. He felt the amount would be more than cut in half.
Chairman Perkins outlined that everyone knew his position on the situation.
Councilor Friedman asked Mr. Kennedy when he will start paying on the amount due. Mr. Kennedy stated he would be in on Friday the 8th to make a payment. He stated he could not pay it all but would also increase his monthly rent to help catch up.
Councilor Friedman asked Mr. Kennedy what he thought may have caused the breakdown in communication. Mr. Kennedy stated that he thought it was because he had been there so long. There is a lot of stuff that he does and he doesn’t think to write it down right away and it gets forgotten. Councilor Friedman asked Mr. Kennedy if he thought those barriers are gone now and that communication will continue. Mr. Kennedy said yes.
Councilor Hathaway outlined that things didn’t seem very set in stone as far as a rental policy went. He outlined that he thought $325 seemed a bit low. He asked if the rent had been adjusted when we had the spike in oil last year. Manager Reed stated it hadn’t. Councilor Hathaway stated that the amount owed needs to be resolved and going forward we need a signed agreement so if rent isn’t paid the tenant vacates the building.
There was discussion on the cost to operate the building. Office Administrator Julie Reed stated that it cost roughly $500 every two weeks for heating fuel and $120 a month for electricity. She did not have numbers for water, sewer and insurance.
Councilor Hathaway stated he would like to see what the Town has in place for a rental policy for the building and he would also like to see what all the costs are for operating the building, heat, electricity, insurance, etc.
Councilor Friedman asked Recreation Director Robert Young if he was using the Community Center. He stated that currently he is only using it for storage.
CEO/Assessor Allan Thomas outlined that the Town needs to address who is responsible for shoveling the back stairs.
Councilor Parker stated that a lease would address these issues.
Manager Reed outlined that the Town spends anywhere from $10,000 - $12,000 a year on the building.
Manager Reed stated he will have a draft lease agreement for the next Council meeting. Councilor Parker added that it needs to be determined what are legitimate expenses to offset rent and have it in the lease agreement..
ITEM 6. Comments from the Public
CEO/Assessor Allan Thomas stated that over the past year or so Maine Public Safety has been looking to redo their communications system in the State. They are planning to put a new tower on Buck Hill by this summer. If it does not comply with the Town’s ordinance he has told them they will have to address it with the Council. Chairman Perkins asked how tall it will be. CEO/Assessor Allan Thomas stated 180 feet.
Chief Leonard outlined that the tower would be a huge asset to the community, there are places in Town that have poor reception. He stated that they have requested space on the tower. He added that the Town received grant money for equipment that they originally wanted to put on the tower here at the municipal building, however the Town was refused a request to raise the height of it. This equipment could now be placed on the new tower on Buck Hill.
ITEM 7. Manager’s Report
Manager Reed outlined that a local resident, Ken Borneman has offered his professional services to assist in the review of the Glacial Energy proposal. He is going to look into some other companies to see if their prices are better and if they can send a bill with Bangor Hydro so that it all comes at once.
Manager Reed outlined that Orono, Old Town, Veazie and Milford met on the regional assessment feasibility study. They received a price of $25,000 to do the study which seemed steep. The Old Town City Manager is going to meet with two other vendors who submitted RFP proposals. There are also some inconsistencies on how each Town does their assessments. Veazie seems to be on the same page as Old Town. Orono’s assessments are a little old and they are not sure if they want to do a reevaluation or not. Milford has some inconsistencies as well, they do not use TRIO like us. There is still the consensus that a regional approach would be beneficial in the future. He will keep the Council updated on the project.
The Council reviewed copies of financial reports, tax collection lists and budget meeting schedule.
The Council reviewed a copy of an email from Steven Moores of Penquis CAP outlining that they are tabling their proposal at the present time.
The Council reviewed a copy of an enforcement action letter that the Code Enforcement Officer sent out.
Chairman Perkins stated that the letter was not real detailed and was curious what it regarded. CEO/Assessor Allan Thomas stated that there had been two travel trailers placed at 17 Lemon Street this past summer and people had been living in them. One is currently gone and the other will be removed shortly.
ITEM 8. Requests for Information and Town Council Comments
Councilor Hathaway stated he thought the Council was going to have the Planning Board attend a meeting to discuss challenges and philosophies, however they haven’t been to a meeting yet. Manager Reed stated that he will have staff schedule them for a meeting.
Chairman Perkins outlined that he noticed the agenda was not posted on the website and requested that it be placed there before each meeting. He also requested receiving the minutes earlier, however now that the Council is moving back to bi-weekly meetings it may not be necessary.
Member of the Public Terry Lynch inquired why the Town did not have its Council meetings on its cable access channel like other towns. Manager Reed stated that the additional equipment is approximately $15,000 not to mention the added cost to upgrade our current equipment. He added that the other towns have more cable subscribers and generate more money to help pay for their cable access channel equipment. Currently Veazie only has between 400 and 500 cable subscribers and the revenues the Town receives goes to the General Fund.
ITEM 9. Warrants: Town Warrant 13, 13A & 14, Town Payroll Warrant 13 & 14 were circulated for signature.
ITEM 10. Adjournment: Motion: Councilor King —to adjourn the January 4, 2010 Town Council Meeting. Seconded: Councilor Hathaway —there was no further discussion. Voted 5-0. Meeting adjourned 9:12 pm.
A true record, Attest:
Town of Veazie