PRESENT: Chairman Hathaway, Councilor Friedman, Councilor Perkins, Councilor King, Councilor Parker, Manager W. Reed, Deputy Clerk K. Humphrey, Office Administrator J. Reed, Assessor/CEO A. Thomas, Public Works Superintendent B. Stoyell, Parks & Recreation Director R. Young, Fire Chief G. Martin, Police Chief M. Leonard, Members of the Public.
ITEM 1. The November 8, 2010 Veazie Town Council meeting was called to order at 7:00PM.
ITEM 2. Consideration of the Minutes
Motion By: Councilor King —to accept the October 25, 2010 meeting minutes as written. Seconded: Councilor Friedman, Voted 5-0 in favor.
ITEM 3. Consideration of the Agenda
Chairman Hathaway added an RSU update to the agenda, item 5e.
ITEM 4. Comments from the Public
Member of the public Travis Noyes inquired whether it was okay for people to make comments during items. He outlined that public comments had been moved to the top of the agenda from the bottom. Chairman Hathaway stated that he always try to keep an open meeting and allow comments. He outlined that he had requested that public comments be moved so that people who had something to discuss that wasn’t on the agenda didn’t have to wait through an entire agenda to be heard.
ITEM 5a. Water District Update
Trustee James Parker outlined that the District is in the process of rebuilding the water treatment plant. There will be an increase in the residential rate around 11-12% and an increase in the fire protection (hydrants) rate of around 17%. The increased rates are due to the District’s need to raise an additional $194,000 a year to pay for the upgraded plant. The new rates would probably take affect in February.
Chairman Hathaway inquired whether there would be a public hearing. Superintendent Dennis Cross stated there would be but a date has not been set yet. He added that they are required to mail notices to all customers to notify them of the public hearing.
ITEM 5b. MDOT Agreement
Manager Reed outlined that the only thing the MDOT had concerns with was the salt/brine mix. He outlined that staff notified them that the Town does not have the capability for that but that we do have availability for calcium spray for pretreatment.
Chairman Hathaway inquired about the payment to the Town. MDOT Regional Representative Steven Thebarge outlined that the Town would receive four payments during the winter season.
Motion By: Councilor Perkins—to authorize the Town Manager to sign and execute the Maine Department of Transportation Snow and Ice Control Agreement dated November 1, 2010 on the Town of Veazie’s behalf. Seconded: Councilor King. Councilor Parker inquired whether the Town’s contractor would honor the same price. Manager Reed stated they would. There was no further discussion. Voted 5-0 in favor.
ITEM 5c. Communications Proposal Update
Manager Reed stated that he spoke with a gentleman from VHB and they are still looking over the RF data files that had been sent over by the Town’s vendor. They also had follow-up questions for the Fire and Police Chiefs. Manager Reed stated that he was hopeful that they would have a proposal prepared this week.
Chairman Hathaway briefed the public on why the Town was approaching a consultant. He also noted that the public hearing on the Communications Tower Ordinance is on Monday, November 15th at 7:00pm in the Council Chambers.
Councilor Perkins inquired whether the Town had entered into an agreement with VHB. Manager Reed stated it had not. Councilor Perkins stated that he had gotten another name of a consultant that was located in Maine and provided it to the Town Manager.
ITEM 5d. Fire Department Update
Chief Martin outlined that Chief Webb of Orono Fire had contacted him about them housing Veazie’s ladder truck up at their station overnight while their tower is out of service. Councilor Friedman stated that he did not feel comfortable having the Town’s truck up at Orono with their people driving it while the Town is insuring it. Councilor Perkins outlined that the power plant probably would not appreciate it either.
Chairman Hathaway stated he thought it was an odd request but felt that this was a time where mutual aid would come in. The Council did not wish to have the Town’s ladder truck housed up at Orono during the overnights.
Chief Martin stated that Captain Metcalf came up with an idea of putting a repeater at the power plant to help with communications. Member of the public Robert Rice inquired whether the Town had access to the hospital tower. Captain Metcalf stated that the department had received a grant and with those monies they would be installing equipment in the ambulances and repeaters on the hospital tower.
ITEM 5e. RSU Update
Chairman Hathaway stated that there is an effort to bring forth a referendum on school bonding improvements anywhere from $500,000 to $4.2 million. He outlined that it seems like it has come to light all of a sudden without the public’s participation.
Member of the public Travis Noyes inquired on the Town’s representation on the school board and whether or not they should be informing the Town on this issue. Chairman Hathaway stated that the Board is autonomous and has no obligation to us. Member of the public Todd Lynch suggested inviting the Superintendent to a meeting.
ITEM 6a. COPS Grant
Chairman Hathaway stated that he felt he let the Council down at the last meeting by not coming prepared to the meeting with figures. He outlined that they would not be adding additional staff to the department. There would be a three year cost savings of $75,000 and a fourth year expense of $35,380. The Town would be able to save $75,000 by only spending $35,000. Chairman Hathaway outlined that the position is here for four years and it goes away after that unless the Council, Budget Committee and members of the community want to spend the additional money.
Councilor Perkins stated that after the last meeting he had confused himself about savings, so he went home and downloaded the COPS Grant manual. He outlined that the area that caught his eye was about supplementing not supplanting. He also contacted the COPS Grant representatives and asked some questions. A copy of this email was provided to the Council and public. Councilor Perkins noted that the Town would not be able to cut back on part-time patrol officer hours and use the resulting savings for other police related expenditures other than police salaries. He also noted the Town would not be able to cut back on part time patrol officer hours and transfer the savings into the Town’s general fund. Lastly, he outlined that the Town would not be able to “bank” the
savings by not using some formally utilized part time officers hours by having the full time officer work the schedule that has been filled with part time or seasonal officers.
Manager Reed stated that the Town is allowed to use what they call a “lockbox” where the funds go to pay for hours in the future. This has been done in the past on other COPS grants that the Town has received.
Councilor Perkins stated that he had heard there were problems about 10-12 years ago regarding another COPS Grant where there was discussion with the “feds” on how the funds were used. Chairman Hathaway stated that he was on the Council then and he knows of no issue. Manager Reed stated that he knows of no issue and was never contacted by the Federal Government on anything that he recalled.
Chief Leonard stated that he did email the Town’s grant specialist and her response was that the department’s budget cannot change if it accepts this grant. Funding of the department would have to stay the same, which is what he planned on doing and carrying the savings forward.
Member of the public Joan Perkins stated that it is unclear where the savings are coming from when she just heard that the budget cannot be reduced because the Town is accepting COPS Grant money. Either the Town is saving money by being able to put it somewhere else or use it for another purpose or it’s not.
Chief Leonard outlined that he currently budgets $50,000 a year for part time help. Currently the department has 48 hours a week that are left open that are either to be filled by full time staff by paying them over time or by part time staff. That equals 2,496 hours a year. The average part time wage is $12 an hour. The average full time overtime wage is $27.37 an hour. Without the position, filling the 2,496 hours with part time staff would cost $29,952. Filling the hours by full time overtime would cost $68,315.52. Chief Leonard outlined that with the position filled there would be 416 hours left to fill which would cost $4,992 if it is filled by part time staff or $11,385 if it is filled by full time overtime. Chief Leonard stated that this would be a savings
of $24,960 per year and that over three years the total savings would be $74,880. The anticipated cost of the fourth year not including benefits is $35,380. If benefits are added, although not knowing what the cost of health care will be in four years, the cost of the position would roughly be $49,532. This leaves a net savings $25,348. Chief Leonard outlined that with the prior grants the department received, at the end of the period the positions were no longer funded.
Member of the public Henricus Bergmans stated that he got chills when he heard the Council was going to turn down a grant. He outlined that it is a refund of their taxes. He felt that by turning it down would diminish the department and ruin the Town’s reputation and that by accepting it, it would strengthen the department. He added that Veazie is next to a big city where a lot of things can filter down into the small community.
Member of the public Tammy Olson stated that she had read the COPS Grant manual and thought you could not reduce hours of coverage. Therefore if the department’s coverage is 300 hours per week it would have to be 340 hours per week.
Chairman Hathaway stated that currently there is a shift that is not filled by anyone. The coverage is provided by part timers or overtime by full timers.
Member of the public Suzanne Hart stated that the grant requirements talk about positions not hours. She outlined that the community and Chief should be commended for taking the effort to apply for this and for receiving it. If the Town does not accept this grant it is embarrassing and will jeopardize the Town’s chances of getting any additional grants.
Member of the public Al Suddy stated that the last thing the Town needs is another police officer. The Town currently has eleven officers and that is a lot for a little town. He outlined that back when the Town had two officers they always had one at church on Sunday to escort people across State Street. He outlined that there is an officer there on Sundays but he does not get out of the car.
Member of the Public Marilynn Bishop inquired on how much it would cost the town to put this item to vote in an election. She also inquired whether there was a recall provision in the Town’s Charter for Town Councilors.
Member of the public Dennis Suddy inquired whether there was serious crime in Veazie. Chief Leonard stated that as of now the department has responded to 2,275 calls for service this year. In the past month they have responded to a rape involving a knife, investigated a stabbing and several burglaries. He outlined that he doesn’t go to the news media every time they have one of these incidents. Chief Leonard stated that people want to think they live in small town Veazie and it’s a safe community and that’s his job to provide that feeling to these people. He doesn’t believe in going to the media every time something happens. Chief Leonard added that they have had 1,091 traffic stops as of 11/4 and they have issued 817 warnings and 274 summonses. He
outlined that he has strived in the nine years he has been here to change the public opinion of the department. He added that they are a small town police department and they are tough but they are also a fair police department.
Member of the public Joan Perkins stated that the State of Maine maintains a crime statistics website. They have crime statistics broken out by year for many years. She outlined that everyone can see for themselves whether Veazie needs this type of police coverage. Chief Leonard outlined that the statistics report doesn’t look at every call for service, they report on the key points like murder, rape, aggravated assault, etc. He stated that he didn’t think it was fair to simply look at Veazie’s crime rate by what the State gathers for statistical data.
Member of the public Henricus Bergmans stated that if the Town doesn’t have any crime it is probably due to the Police Department.
Member of the Public Joan Perkins outlined that it states on the State’s website that the statistics are reported by the departments themselves. Chief Leonard stated that was true however, he reiterated that the State only requests certain statistics and not all incidents are reported.
Member of the public Travis Noyes pointed out that if one were to look at the municipal budget over the last few years it has been a flat line, however the school budget continues to go up and up. He wondered why time and effort wasn’t being spent on trying to control that.
Chairman Hathaway stated he would like to see the Town reconsider accepting the grant based on further clarification, documentation and audit regulations that says the Town will reserve, segregate and separate any savings funds on this grant. He feels it is important that the Town move forward and accept the grant. He outlined that he hears the concern but if the Town pushes hard in every way shape and manner possible to side track this grant, he doesn’t think that’s in the best interest of all 2011 inhabitants of this community.
Chairman Hathaway stated that they should spend their time and energy clarifying points that have been made over and over again trying to derail this grant. Somehow staff can come up with ways to address these concerns. He added that he would like to see management staff talk to the appropriate people so that they may bring a comfort level to everyone that this (the grant) can be done.
Chairman Hathaway stated that all he is asking for is an affirmative motion to allow the Town to continue to accept the award contingent upon clarification from the appropriate parties. If it comes back different and can’t show hard savings then that’s another issue.
Councilor Friedman stated that he did not support the grant the first time and certainly will not support it this time. Councilor King stated that he would not change his vote. Councilor Perkins stated that he is of the same opinion that he was at the last meeting which was not to accept the grant.
Chairman Hathaway stated that this sends a wrong signal internally within the Town’s departments and externally with the taxpayers and grant providers.
ITEM 7. Manager’s Report
The Town Council reviewed the following items:
a. An opinion submitted by the Town Attorney pertaining to the conflict of interest question regarding a Budget Committee member. It was noted that no conflict of interest is present.
b. An email memo from Manager Reed to the Council members and department heads pertaining to a Bangor Daily News blog posting.
c. A letter from a resident pertaining to the Police Department article in the Bangor Daily News.
d. A report of a communications problem that the Fire Department had.
e. The quarterly investment reports.
f. A copy of a Bangor Daily News article regarding mailbox thefts in Veazie and surrounding area.
ITEM 8. Requests for Information and Town Council Comments
Chairman Hathaway outlined that there was a question by member of the public Marilynn Bishop regarding a petition to send the COPS Grant to a vote by the citizens. Manager Reed stated that he would have to check on it and would talk with her after the meeting to get her the information.
Councilor Friedman stated that when Chairman Hathaway became Chairman he said they would start the budget process early and he wanted to make sure that was still on track. He also noted that nothing has been done with the Manager’s contract.
Member of the public Travis Noyes asked if it was possible for the Councilors packets to be scanned and placed online for people to look at it.
Member of the public Marilynn Bishop also noted that the use of microphones would be nice at the meetings so that everyone could be heard.
Member of the public Todd Lynch recommended the Council think about a process for applying for grants so that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again in the future.
Councilor Perkins thanked everyone for attending the meeting.
ITEM 9. Warrants: Town Warrant 10 and Town Payroll 10 were circulated for signature.
ITEM 10. Adjournment: Motion: Councilor King—to adjourn the November 8, 2010 Town Council Meeting. Seconded: Councilor Perkins—there was no further discussion. Voted 5-0. Meeting adjourned 8:56pm.
A true record, Attest:
Town of Veazie