PRESENT: Chairman Perkins, Councilor Hathaway, Councilor Friedman, Councilor King, Councilor Parker, Manager W. Reed, Deputy Clerk K. Humphrey, Office Administrator J. Reed, Parks & Recreation Director R. Young, Police Chief M. Leonard, Assessor/CEO A. Thomas, Fire Chief G. Martin, Senator Elizabeth Schneider, Representative Jim Martin, Members of the Public.
ITEM 1. The February 16, 2009 Veazie Town Council meeting was called to order at 7:00PM.
ITEM 2. Consideration of the Minutes
Motion By: Councilor King —to accept the February 1, 2010 meeting minutes as written. Seconded: Councilor Hathaway. Councilor Hathaway wished to make a comment on item 4e (Waste Management Extension) of the minutes that he would like to see the Council have a good discussion on doing more on recycling and less on trash. He would even like to propose doing weekly recycling and bi-monthly trash pick-up. It is time we try to recycle more and waste less. There was no further discussion. Voted 5-0 in favor.
ITEM 3. Consideration of the Agenda
Chairman Perkins stated he would like to move item 5e to before 5a.
ITEM 4a. State Representative James Martin/Senator Elizabeth Schneider
Senator Schneider and Representative Jim Martin were present to answer questions the Councilors had provided. Senator Schneider stated that one of the concerns was municipal revenue sharing and how to address the proposed cuts. She outlined that the revenue forecasting committee gets together again in a couple weeks and they should have a more concise assessment of where things stand. Senator Schneider gave an unofficial estimate for fiscal year 2010 of $275,345 in revenue sharing for Veazie.
Councilor Hathaway inquired on how these projections will affect Veazie. Manager Reed outlined that the numbers the State is using in Municipal Revenue Sharing are better than the numbers he and staff were looking at. Right now it looks like a $50,000 cut in revenue sharing for the Town.
Councilor Hathaway inquired about the Town’s other revenue such as excise tax. Manager Reed stated that all of the excise tax bills were killed in legislation and that the Town’s excise revenue has been right on track as far as staff’s projections for the year.
In regards to State Aid to Education, Senator Schneider outlined that there has been some issues with the penalties for not consolidating and who receives that benefit which has been taken up by the Educational and Cultural Affairs Committee, which she sits on. She stated there were 15 to 17 communities that tried vigorously to consolidate however were unsuccessful. The Appropriations Committee is looking at possibly not penalizing those communities to the fullest. Currently it looks like there will be a $629,251 cut in funds to RSU #26 and that includes a $57,000 benefit for joining an RSU. However, Senator Schneider outlined that if the formula changes due to those 15 to 17 communities then that $57,000 benefit could be reduced.
Chairman Perkins asked if the $629,251 was just for Veazie or the whole RSU. Senator Schneider stated it was for the whole RSU. Manager Reed outlined that hopefully the RSU’s carryforward might be able to offset this $629,251 decrease. That is the intention or to at least make it manageable.
Senator Schneider outlined that there will be a bill to provide a way for municipalities to opt out of an RSU just like there is a way to opt out of SADs.
Representative Jim Martin discussed the new proposed laws to culvert replacement. He outlined that he spoke with Bob Deschane who is the Chair of the Natural Resources Committee and they have decided to delay the implementation until 2012. This will allow the DEP to go out and look and see what the ramifications would be if implemented and the financial costs to municipalities. Part of the decision to delay implementation was due to the current condition towns are in and how these added costs would affect towns.
Councilor Hathaway stated that he is concerned that these penalties are back on the table for discussion. He stated that the Town had a pretty active community group that worked through the process and played by the rules as set forth in the legislature. Now two years hence it is still being debating whether penalties are going to flow back to the communities that played by the rules.
Councilor Hathaway outlined is frustration with balancing a budget when so little is under the Town’s control. He added that 80% of the Town’s tax base will go out in the form of a check for a school assessment and municipal revenue sharing and state aid to education always tend to be an unknown until it comes down to the wire. The Town never knows if it is stable or unstable. He outlined the need to “get a handle on things” and at some point doing something about revenue because things cannot continue the way they are.
Representative Martin outlined that every time a revenue increase gets passed the State ends up having a people’s veto referendum and it puts everything on hold because they cannot balance a budget based on whether they know that revenue is going to be there or not. He added that adding a penny to the sales tax is a “drop in the bucket” as far as revenue goes to fill the budget gap. He personally believes there needs to be an appropriate balance and an honest discussion needs to be had about revenue.
Chairman Perkins inquired on how much revenue would be generated from raising the sales tax one penny. Senator Schneider stated it would be around $100 million give or take.
Senator Schneider outlined that there are about 130 taxes out there that states use and most of the states utilize most of them. Maine however, only uses about 26 of them. She outlined that automobiles are the biggest source of sales tax, so when the economy goes sour revenue plummets.
Senator Schneider outlined that 80% of the State budget is made up of just two pieces, education and health and human services.
Representative Martin stated that a study had been done and if the current proposed budget was to be passed it would cause 7,000 to 10,000 jobs lost. This doesn’t just include State jobs its local jobs from the “trickle down” effect.
Senator Schneider pointed out that even if sales tax were raised there is no way to control where it would go. Most likely it would go to “cushion” health and human services.
Councilor Hathaway stated that he is reluctant to raise real estate taxes. There is already so much hurt in the community.
Councilor Hathaway stated that one of the items that “sold” school consolidation was the reduction in administrative costs it was suppose to provide. He was curious if any reports were being funneled back to the State so that the people can see how much they are saving. Senator Schneider stated that the State is collecting data but no reports are ready yet.
There was discussion on having these kinds of meetings more often to keep the communication lines open. Senator Schneider and Representative Martin outlined that the Council should feel free to call or email them.
ITEM 4b. Email Communication Discussion
The Council reviewed some informational guidelines provided by Maine Municipal Association pertaining to emails of board members.
Councilor Hathaway outlined that he wasn’t comfortable with the amount of information going out in emails. He thought there was too much information being circulated in between the Council’s normal meetings. He would rather see it on the agenda and discuss it rather than seeing all these emails two weeks prior to a meeting.
Chairman Perkins outlined that he emails a lot and it’s for transparency because he thinks that when he has a private conversation with the town manager that other people should know what his concerns are.
ITEM 5e. Communications Tower Update (taken before 5a)
Code Enforcement Officer Allan Thomas stated there was a little confusion over the ordinance and in fact, the State’s tower is an exception to the ordinance therefore, the Council does not need to do a variance or change the ordinance. Currently the Town has a 35 foot height limit and the 180 foot tower exceeded that, however, the State’s communication tower is an exception to the limit.
Manager Reed outlined that now the State would simply submit their application to the Planning Board and go through the process with them.
Manager Reed stated that the State has talked with Allan and they are very happy to provide information and do an informational meeting.
Councilor Hathaway outlined that he has had a lot of people call him expressing concern. He stated that he supports the project just not in Veazie. There are a lot of concerns with real estate values and aesthetics. Councilor Hathaway stated that he thought the Council should take a position up front before it goes along in the process too far.
Member of the public Bob Rice outlined that the Town Office knew of this proposal for a year, the site has been marked, there are maps on the State of Maine’s website and people have come to this community twice. He outlined that the Town supports local police and fire, however this tower is for 12 State agencies. He added that the Town can buy space on it as long as it doesn’t interfere with the State’s signal.
Member of the Public Bob Rice quoted the August 2008 minutes on discussion that the Fire Department was going back to dispatch to eliminate radio problems. He then quoted the October 2008 meeting minutes where it says the issues had been resolved by returning to dispatch.
Member of the Public Bob Rice stated that the tower will interfere with cell phone service and wireless internet service. He added that it is probable that dead spots will increase not decrease. Lightning strikes have also been shown to increase in areas of these towers.
Member of the Public Bob Rice quoted some studies that show towers decrease real estate values. He also noted that the Federal Housing Authority will not give a housing loan for a home in the ‘shadow’ of a tower.
Member of the Public Bob Rice outlined that there are other sites including one on the Kelly Road that is zoned commercial and is the same height or higher than Buck Hill and is “tower ready.”
Councilor Friedman asked how the Council could move to stop it even though they haven’t received an application yet. Manager Reed outlined a letter could be sent to the State asking if they can look at different option sites.
Chairman Perkins inquired since they haven’t officially submitted paperwork would it be legally possible to look at an ordinance. Councilor Parker inquired whether the ordinance could be amended. Manager Reed stated it can and it would have to go through public hearing.
Chairman Perkins stated he would like to consider a resolution from the Council to encourage the developers to look at alternative sites and the Town should look at changing the ordinance not just for this tower but for other possible projects.
Manager Reed outlined that there is a due process for everything. If the Council wishes to change the ordinance they need to request that the Planning Board take up the item. The Council should also draft up a letter to send to the State with their concerns listed and request to know why Veazie was selected when there are these other options available.
Councilor Hathaway stated that he was in a favor of a resolution that thanks them for coming to a Council meeting and for the information they provided but that says the Town of Veazie and its residents are not really interested in hosting the tower.
A member of the public stated that she would like to act immediately and have something in place before the State submits their application to the Planning Board.
CEO Allan Thomas read from the Town Charter that the Council on their own accord can start a process to amend the ordinance.
Member of the Public David Wardop suggested enacting a moratorium.
CEO Allan Thomas outlined that where the Town had not received an application it could not act on an application, however, the Town can act on its ordinance at any time.
Councilor Hathaway stated that this seemed to be a two “prong” approach. The first step is to just say thank you but not thank you. He is hopeful that the State will get the Council’s letter and respect its feelings and those of the residents. He added that he thinks the Town needs to act quickly to take whatever measures to protect the Town from future applicants.
Chairman Perkins suggested taking care of the resolution first and asked if there was a motion for such a resolution to come from the Council.
Motion By: Councilor King – so moved.
Seconded: Councilor Parker
MOTION FAILS: NO MOTION MADE
Councilor Hathaway stated that he wanted to make sure a copy of the letter goes to Veazie’s State Senator and State Representative and any other applicable person.
A member of the public asked what the resolution was.
Councilor King stated “thanks but no thanks.”
A member of the public outlined that it sounded like the Council might be trying to speak for a percentage of the population that maybe isn’t represented at this meeting. He added that they are saying the citizens of Veazie are not interested but it sounds like the Council needs 10% of the voters in the last gubernatorial election.
It was explained that the Council themselves could start the process of amending an ordinance and this was their personal feelings in the resolution.
Councilor Hathaway asked how long it would take to draft up a resolution. Manager Reed stated he could write it first thing in the morning.
No further discussion, Voted 5-0 in favor. VOTE INVALID – NO MOTION MADE
Councilor King inquired whether the Council could put a moratorium on towers like the City of Bangor did out on Broadway. CEO Allan Thomas stated that he believed they could but it would be a question for the Town attorney. Councilor King recalled an incident in Bangor where the Planning Board approved a tower, however, residents petitioned and the Council ended up putting a moratorium and making it retroactive to before the date the application was received for the tower.
Councilor Hathaway inquired whether the Council could enact an emergency 90 day moratorium on towers. CEO Allan Thomas stated he believed they could but they needed to speak to the Town attorney. Councilor Hathaway inquired whether Mr. Thomas knew whether it could be enacted as an emergency so that it takes affect now. CEO Allan Thomas stated that he did not know.
Member of the Public Tom Russell suggested moving forward with the moratorium and making it retroactive. This would allow the Town time to amend its ordinance to address this particular use.
This item was tabled until later into the meeting to allow CEO Allan Thomas to research moratoriums.
ITEM 5a. Budget Discussion
Councilor Hathaway stated that he does not want to increase taxes and Councilor Friedman agreed.
Manager Reed outlined that right now he is working towards a $160,000 reduction with the department heads. This reduction will offset the loss from the State.
Chairman Perkins stated that he would like to see budgets a lot sooner. Every year there is discussion about getting things done earlier and he would like to see the Budget Committee get more detail earlier.
Manager Reed stated that he will have not received the numbers for municipal revenue sharing until April or the school assessment until possibly after the budget has been set. It’s very hard to set a budget when you don’t know what your revenues are.
Chairman Perkins reiterated that he would like to speed the process up. Manager Reed outlined that the Budget Committee has already voted to accept the budget schedule.
Councilor Friedman stated that he would like the Budget Committee to look at each line item and ask the question “does this make senses or is this something the Town can live without.” He added that a lot of people he has talked to want to see the municipal side cut so that is his goal this year.
There was discussion on getting the budget process underway earlier.
Councilor Friedman stated that he wanted to see what the Town was spending money on. Manager Reed stated that the Council has received all of the budget reports and if they would like additional information they can request it.
Chairman Perkins stated he would like to request and start with the town office and it can be emailed to him and he would like to see detail. He added that he has been stonewalled for the last two or three meetings.
Manager Reed outlined that he has told department heads that if anyone requests information to provide it, however, if the request isn’t specific they are not going to know what to give.
Councilor Hathaway stated that he does not want to give the resemblance of micromanaging. He is looking at the bigger picture.
Motion By: Councilor Hathaway—to ask the Budget Committee to speed up the budget process.
Councilor Hathaway outlined that he would like the Budget Committee to look at the budget first and then he’d like to have it the next day. He would also like them to start next week on the process. Councilor Hathaway outlined that he’d like to have plenty of time to have discussion and he’d like it to be pure discussion without drilling down and talking about staff and staff purchases. He stated that he would rather give direction on an amount to cut and it’s up to the manager/department head to figure it out. Councilor Hathaway stated that the process needs to start and the Budget Committee has to start quickly.
MOTION NOT SECONDED: MOTION FAILS
Chairman Perkins stated that he would like to add to that. He would like to give the directive that the Town not replace retiring or departing employees until the Council has had a chance to discuss it. Chairman Perkins added that he thinks the Town needs to freeze raises for at the least the immediate future, however he didn’t know if anyone else was on board with that idea.
AMENDMENT FAILS: CANNOT AMEND A FAILED MOTION
Councilor Friedman stated that he supported those items.
Councilor Hathaway stated that he was not against it but he would like to see the budget first.
Seconded: Councilor Friedman
INVALID – NO LONGER A MOTION ON THE FLOOR
Councilor King inquired what the motion was.
Councilor Hathaway reiterated that he would like to start the budget process now and that the Budget Committee has first review but the Council should receive what they have reviewed at their next meeting.
MOTION NOT SECONDED: MOTION FAILS
Chairman Perkins stated that his amendment was to not replace retiring or departing employees until the Council has had a chance to discuss it and to freeze raises for the foreseeable future. Chairman Perkins stated that he would like to retract the freeze on raises as he knows they do not come or occur all at the same time.
AMENDMENT FAILS: CANNOT AMEND A FAILED MOTION
There was no further discussion. Voted 5-0 in favor. VOTE INVALID – NO MOTION
ITEM 5b. Regionalism Outreach
Councilor Friedman stated that he would like to see the Town move forward with a regionalism outreach to Bangor to see if the Town can save on anything.
Chairman Perkins stated that it was not a very detailed letter and did not mention any departments but he said he could go along with a general dialogue to get things going. He also mentioned a couple of grammatical errors he would like fixed before it is signed.
ITEM 5e. Communications Tower Update (Item taken back up)
It was decided to draft up a moratorium on towers and hold a special Council meeting to make a motion to propose it. A public hearing would then be held on Monday, March 1st allowing plenty of time for the seven days notice.
CEO Allan Thomas wanted to outline to the Council that there is a chance that the State could preempt the Town’s zoning and still put the tower on Buck Hill.
Tom Russell outlined that if the Governor determines it is in the State’s best interest he could override the Town’s zoning. He’s not aware of that ever happening and it’s not a way the State likes to go but they can preempt the Town’s zoning.
ITEM 5c. Purchasing Policy
This item was tabled until the March 1st Council meeting.
ITEM 5d. Community Center Update
Manager Reed outlined at the last Council meeting there had been discussion on commercial lease rates and a memo was included with their packets showing the findings. Rates seem to vary widely. He added that the Town attorney recommended doing a six month lease that could be changed to year lease. Manager Reed stated that Donald Mackay had emailed him with two concerns but both would be addressed with this new revised lease.
Chairman Perkins inquired whether the lease included attributing value to working with people in the community. Manager Reed stated that in the lease staff did not put a cost because a value would be determined by the Council.
Councilor Friedman asked if staff ever found the original lease agreement. Manager Reed stated that it is in Resource Management warehouse. It basically says that rent is $325 a month for this space. That was at a time when they thought the building was going to be redeveloped. It’s under the old rental agreement that the Town used when people were having line dancing and other events back in 1998.
Councilor Friedman asked if the square footage on the rental rates memo was for the whole building or just the portion Mr. Kennedy uses. Manager Reed stated it was for the portion that Mr. Kennedy uses.
Councilor Friedman asked Manager Reed if he had ever gone to an AA meeting over at the community center. Manager Reed stated that he has visited. Councilor Friedman stated that the people attending these meetings leave tons of cigarettes all over the place and wondered if the Public Works ever picked them up. Superintendent Free stated from time to time they have picked them up. Councilor Friedman stated that a lot of times he sees Mr. Kennedy picking them up and wondered if he ever charged the Town for that.
Manager Reed stated that there is a question about intangibles.
Councilor Friedman suggested letting Mr. Kennedy remain in the building and continuing to pay $325 a month until the Town figures out what it is going to do with the building.
Chairman Perkins stated that he shares Councilors Friedman’s opinion. He outlined that Mr. Kennedy has been the building’s superintendent for a number of years, he has prevented some serious damage from freeze ups and leaks. He would even like to see him work with the Recreation Director. He outlined that Mr. Kennedy is grandfathered for use of the building so no one else can use it. If he leaves, the Town still has to heat the building and pay for electricity and water and it would lose security services and janitorial services. He would hate to charge him a large amount of rent that he is unwilling or unable to pay and the Town has a closed building that deteriorates while the community center committee struggles to keep the ball
rolling to do something with the building.
Councilor Hathaway inquired on how much it costs to maintain the community center. Manager Reed stated that it costs about $14,000 a year roughly. Councilor Hathaway asked how much Mr. Kennedy owed the Town. Office Administrator Reed stated that he provided a list of “inkind” services for about half of what he owes. He now owes between $6,500 and $7,500.
Councilor Hathaway wondered why the Town would continue to rent and not get paid and cost the Town “X” thousands of dollars. He outlined that he thought the Council has an obligation to the taxpayers to at least be paid. He would like to see rent paid and then the Town be billed for “inkind” services so that there is a paper trail.
Member of the Public Gary Brooks stated that if Mr. Kennedy owes the town $14,000, the Town as landlords should write it off. To echo what two councilors said, no one else can use the building and Mr. Kennedy is providing a service to the Town. If the Town let Mr. Kennedy get that far behind in an agreement that the Town Council approved then they should write off the amount owed.
CEO Allan Thomas asked the Council if they realized what an insult it is to make their department heads and staff cut their budgets and talk about freezing raises and then write off $14,000 in rent owed and not even make Mr. Kennedy make small payments.
Councilor Parker agreed that it is unfair for the Council to say it doesn’t have any revenue coming in so departments have to cut their budgets, when the Town has back revenue it hasn’t gone out and collected yet.
Councilor King stated that he did not want to see the building empty, however Mr. Kennedy will have to stick to an agreement and pay rent and if he doesn’t he will have to go.
Councilor King stated that at the last department head meeting he said he asked how this situation got so out of hand and the answer he was given was that Mrs. Reed was out of work for a year. He added that Mr. Kennedy is 40 months behind on his rent and it’s been let go too long, the Town is just as much at fault.
Chairman Perkins stated he would like to see Mr. Kennedy continue what he is paying now, $325 a month. He added that he would also like to see Mr. Kennedy work with the Town’s recreation director and perhaps that could go toward his “inkind” services.
Motion By: Councilor Friedman—for Mr. Kennedy to continue paying $325 a month for rent on the same date each month to be set by staff and the first time he misses a payment he will have to vacate the building at will. Seconded: Councilor King.
Councilor Hathaway asked if whether there was any consideration for the past due amount. He outlined that Mr. Kennedy had sat at a Council meeting and admitted he knew he owed the Town money. He also inquired if this was a month to month lease.
Councilor Parker outlined that you cannot do a month to month lease on commercial property and the minimum lease term is six months.
Councilor Hathaway inquired whether there was a provision in the lease for a 30 day notice or cancellation. It was pointed out that there is a 60 day notice for commercial properties.
Chairman Perkins state he would like to make a couple quick notes or amendments. He mentioned that the lease says that after a year the tenant pays all of the utilities. He did not think that was a good idea. Manager Reed said the reason it was in there was because there had been discussion on it, however that item can be removed.
Councilor Hathaway stated that he would like to see it amended so that there is provision for some number of past due. Chairman Perkins outlined that he would like to see Mr. Kennedy work with the Recreation Department and “inkind” services as part of that payment. Councilor Parker stated he would like to see a paper trail. Councilor Hathaway stated that he wants Mr. Kennedy to bill us for services provided and he needs to pay his monthly rent.
Chairman Perkins called for a vote. Councilor Parker inquired what they were in favor of. Chairman Perkins stated that Councilor Hathaway would like to see an effort of repayment towards past debt. Councilor Hathaway stated that it was not an effort it was an addendum to the lease that said that you will pay some number and he is leaving that up to the Manager to negotiate.
There was no further discussion. Voted 5-0 in favor. AMENDMENTS WERE NOT MOTIONED OR SECONDED. MAIN MOTION PASSES ON VOTE.
ITEM 6. Comments from the Public
There were no comments from the public.
ITEM 7. Manager’s Report
The Town Council reviewed a thank you letter.
The Town Council reviewed a copy of a public nuisance action taken on Sunset Drive.
The Town Council reviewed a copy of LD 1’s State growth factor worksheet
ITEM 8. Requests for Information and Town Council Comments
Superintendent Butch Free stated that he had a meeting with the Cemetery Committee and it went very well. The Committee suggested placing regulations and a written policy on the cemetery in a newsletter and they would also like a bulletin board at the cemetery with the rules and policies on it so that it can be enforced. Superintendent Free and the Committee will be coming up with a written policy and will submit it to the Council. Their next meeting is March 11th at 11:00am.
ITEM 9. Warrants: Town Warrant 17 & 17A and Town Payroll 17 were circulated for signature.
ITEM 10. Adjournment: Motion: Councilor King—to adjourn the February 16, 2010 Town Council Meeting. Seconded: Councilor Hathaway—there was no further discussion. Voted 5-0. Meeting adjourned 9:53pm.
A true record, Attest:
Town of Veazie