PRESENT: Chairman Friedman, Councilor Perkins, Councilor King, Councilor Parker, Councilor Olson, Manager W. Reed, Deputy Clerk K. Morin, Office Administrator J. Reed, Fire Chief G. Martin, Recreation Director R. Young, Public Works Director B. Stoyell, Town Attorney T. Russell, Members of the Public.
ITEM 1. The September 12, 2011 Veazie Town Council meeting was called to order at 7:00PM.
Chairman Friedman stated that the agenda will be amended as follows; Item 11 – Adjournment will be moved to Item 12 and Item 11 will now be Collective Bargaining Agreement.
ITEM 2. Consideration of the Minutes
Councilor Olson stated that the Deputy Clerk’s name was wrong under ‘Present’. She also stated that under item 6a, she didn’t ask for complaints to be logged, rather she asked that if there were any existing complaints she would like them provided to the Council.
Councilor Perkins stated that he had made a comment that was not included in the minutes. He commented a few years ago the Town gave CES Inc. more $70,000 to do a road assessment without putting the project out to bid. In hindsight, he thought that awarding such a large project should require a competitive bidding process in the future.
Motion By: Councilor King—to accept the August 29, 2011 meeting minutes as amended. Seconded: Councilor Olson, Voted 5-0 in favor.
ITEM 3. Consideration of Agenda
Councilor Perkins stated that at the last meeting the Council came to a consensus that there would only be one item on the agenda for this meeting. He would like to table item 6a and 6b.
Councilor Parker stated that the Council has been waiting to discuss the Sewer District issue when the Town Attorney was present and now he is here. He would like to have a brief discussion on it.
Motion By: Councilor Perkins—to remove item 6b from the agenda. Seconded: Councilor King. Councilor Parker stated that he was not sure why they couldn’t discuss item 6b. He outlined that Mr. Thomas had worked for the town for 21 years and he wasn’t sure what the litigation was that was stated at the last Council meeting. He doesn’t see why the Council can’t give Mr. Thomas a retirement letter. Chairman Friedman stated that Mr. Thomas resigned and that was the main issue for him. Voted 4-1 in favor.
Motion By: Councilor Perkins—to move into executive session to review the rights and responsibilities of the Town Council with the Town Attorney. Seconded: Councilor King, Voted 5-0 in favor.
Motion By: Councilor King—to close the executive session and resume normal session. Seconded: Councilor Parker, Voted 5-0 in favor.
Motion By: Councilor Perkins—pursuant to section 6B of the last town manager employment agreement that the town manager’s employment be terminated effective immediately. Seconded: Councilor King. Councilor Parker stated that he would like to know where the Town was going to get the $100,000 to pay the Town Manager and how the Council was going to explain to the public that they didn’t give him due process and a fair chance before the Council gave away $100,000 of the Town’s money. There was discussion on where the funds would come from. Chairman Friedman stated it would come from the general fund. Voted 3-1 in favor. Councilor Olson abstained.
Motion By: Councilor Perkins—that the amount of severance called for by the agreement be appropriated from the undesignated fund balance. Seconded: Councilor King. Councilor Parker didn’t understand how funds could be appropriated when no one knew exactly how much was in the undesignated fund. Chairman Friedman stated that the Council had been told at the last meeting how much was in the account.
Member of the public Patrick Joyce inquired on what the $100,000 was referring to. Chairman Friedman stated that it was a severance package. Councilor Parker added that his contract called for one month’s salary for every year employed.
Member of the public David Wardrop stated that he thought a number of people are wondering why he was being terminated. Chairman Friedman stated that the Manager could share his reviews if he would like. Manager Reed stated that if anyone would like a copy of his review he would gladly provide one.
Member of the public Travis Noyes asked if they were basing the Manager’s dismissal on the review process that didn’t take place. Chairman Friedman stated the Council had made a decision and if the Town Manager would like to share his reviews he may. Mr. Noyes stated that he had read the reviews and didn’t see any grounds for dismissal. He questioned whether there was potential for litigation to come back on the town to pay more money then it just ‘dished’ out. Chairman Friedman stated he did not think so.
Town Attorney Thomas Russell clarified that the manager was not being dismissed for any cause. The contract gives the Town at the end of the contract the option not to renew the contract and pay a severance package. The Council is exercising that option.
Member of the public Bob Rice stated that he has been coming to meetings for a year and a half and he has seen a number of courageous actions taken by this group and the planning board in protecting the town’s rights and dignity. He is proud to live in this town and he thanks the Council for everything they have done.
Voted 4-1 in favor.
ITEM 4. Comments from the Public
Member of the public Travis Noyes wanted to ask a question with the Town Attorney present in regards the article in the paper over the weekend. He was curious about what constitutes a quorum and whether they can discuss town business. He was also curious about the Councilors emailing one another.
Town Attorney Tom Russell stated that Maine has a freedom of access law that requires open meetings for public business. Any public transaction of business has to be done in open meeting where the public has the right to be present. If three or more councilors show up somewhere, it doesn’t mean it is a meeting. However, they shouldn’t be transacting any business. They should not be discussing or deliberating any matters, it should all be done in an open forum. There should be no discussion of business informally or formally. As far as email and correspondence, if it involves the transaction of town business, it is not appropriate.
Member of the public Bill Hogan wanted to know how the day to day operations would be handled where after tonight the Town doesn’t have a town manager. He also wanted to comment that he has served on the Town Council and the Budget Committee and he is having a very difficult time as a citizen of this Town understanding the rational of all of these ‘goings on’ that he has witnessed since early last spring. He doesn’t know what’s happening to the town and he is very disturbed and disappointed.
Member of the public Jim Parker stated he came to tell the Council that cloture for the legislature is the September 30th and if there are any legislative actions this town would want to get in line he may have the ability to put them in for bills for cloture. He also wanted to know if there is an answer for Mr. Hogan’s question. Chairman Friedman stated that the Council will meet and appoint someone.
Member of the public Marilynn Bishop complimented the Council on the addition of the microphones. She outlined that she wanted to come to the August 29th meeting but was unable to and she was wondering why she wasn’t wanted or needed on the Budget Committee. She also agreed with the concern on where $100,000 is going to come from. She outlined that she had heard that some of the Council wanted ‘new blood’ and noted that she hadn’t been on the committee that long.
Manager Reed stated that people really don’t have to worry about the Town, all of the department heads are very knowledgeable about their job and he thinks the Council feels very good about the department heads that are in charge of the departments. He added that during this transition things will run smoothly.
RSU Director Travis Noyes stated that the board will be having a meeting on September 27th and they were anticipating that Manager Reed would be the representative from the Town that would come to the meeting to talk about cost sharing. He didn’t know if the Council would like to send a staff member or one or more of themselves.
ITEM 5a. Manager’s Review
ITEM 6a. Sewer District Assessment - Discussion
Chairman Friedman asked the Town Attorney if the Council had to take up the item where it was not an item added by the full Council. Councilor Parker stated that this was not a special meeting and any Councilor can add an item to the agenda. Town Attorney Tom Russell outlined that he did not believe the Council had any written rules regarding establishing an agenda and therefore they would just fall back on their custom practice.
Councilor Parker stated that he asked for this to be on the agenda because several members of the community ask him about the legality of the sewer assessment. Manager Reed asked the Town Attorney for his opinion last winter. Councilor Parker stated that the Town Attorney has given them his opinion but the board has never had the chance to discuss it with the attorney present.
Town Attorney Russell outlined that he was asked to look into the legality of the assessment that the sewer district makes on the town. Currently the sewer district assesses user fees to anyone on the sewer system, these are sent out by the district and payable to the district. The sewer district also does an annual assessment to the town which is given to the assessor and added to the commitment. Town Attorney Russell outlined that the district was created in 1951 and the original charter was adopted by the legislature. The charter had a tax mechanism that allowed them to give the town a sewer assessment. In 1987 the legislature amended the law to give the district a user fee authority. The question he researched was whether or not the enactment of the 1987 law effectively
repealed the ability of the district to use the tax assessment method also. Town Attorney Russell stated that there is a doctrine under the law called ‘Repeal by Implication’ that means if any legislative body enacts something that is repugnant to consistent with something already on the books, the original enactment is repealed by implication. Town Attorney Russell stated that the purpose of the assessment and user fee are exactly the same. He thinks an argument can be made that it has been appealed by implication, however, only a court can make that judgment. He added that the other “wrinkle” is that the assessment is only suppose to be assessed to parts of the town that are in the district. Currently there is a part of the Town that doesn’t appear to be in the district and that is the Buck Hill subdivision area.
Member of the public Jim Parker stated that the legislation to clarify the boundary would be simple. He outlined that back in 1987-1988 the district went to battle with the EPA because when they funded the facility they wanted 100% of the cost paid by user fees. At the time it was getting 52% of its tax base from Bangor Hydro which would mean it would lose 52% of its revenue and it would all be passed over to sewer system users. The EPA conceded that where the district had funded the capital with the assessment they would allow the district to split it. He outlined that he felt Town Attorney Russell was correct on the legislative side but the EPA paperwork would probably need to be researched to see what they allowed the district to do.
Sewer District Trust Chair Esther Bushway stated that the district has been looking into the boundaries already. Her question to the Council is if they are really interested in pursuing this assessment issue or if they can pretty much put it to bed so they can all continue on. She outlined that the district has received an opinion from their attorney and they can look at both opinions. She would hate to see the Town and the district end up in court, litigation is expensive. She added that she was not aware of the EPA issues and that might cause some issues but it would be better if the Town would let the district deal with this issue.
Councilor Parker inquired whether the Sewer District could share the district’s attorney’s opinion. Esther said to come down to the sewer district and he could get one. It was decided to get a copy to the Council and put it on the agenda for the next meeting.
Sewer District Trust Chair Esther Bushway stated that she knew at one point that the Town tried to take over the Sewer District. She would like to leave tonight knowing that the Town supports the Sewer District.
Chairman Friedman stated that he couldn’t speak for everyone else but he didn’t want to see the town or the district spend anymore money on legal fees then what’s needed. He wanted to give the district more time to fix the boundaries and as far as the assessment goes, he felt it was like the taxes people pay for the school even though they may not have kids in school, or the taxes they pay for police services but may not use and so forth. Councilor Parker stated that those things are not set up in legislature. Chairman Friedman stated that he felt it was on the same principal as far as he was concerned.
Councilor Perkins stated that he remembered the Council having a joint meeting with the Sewer District two years ago and thinks there was a general consensus amongst council members, Councilor Parker being one and Councilor Hathaway being the other. Councilor Perkins stated that Councilor Hathaway actually suggested that the assessment be increased. So in his opinion he felt there was a general support. He outlined that he had a good feeling about the Sewer District, he has worked with them before and he knows they run a right ship and do a good job and would hate to see the Town waste anymore money that he personally never appropriated to check on these issues.
Councilor Parker stated that he was hearing a lot of rumors about other ways for the district to be run cheaper. He felt that if there is a way to save money, as a town, they owe it to the citizens to look at every option out there.
ITEM 6b. Retiree Recognition Letter - Discussion
Removed from agenda.
ITEM 7. Additions by Council
Councilor Parker stated that he read the article in the paper and he doesn’t agree with all of it, but if there is no discussion about town policies and topics going behind the scenes then how did the Council just decide to fire the town manager. He outlined that they had an executive session where they talked about procedures and didn’t talk about firing the town manager but then fired the manager and had zero discussion about it. He added that obviously some people had talked prior to that because it wasn’t a surprise to anyone when all of a sudden one of them said ‘what do we do when we terminate the contract.” Councilor Parker stated that obviously some discussion is going on behind the scenes and that disturbs him. The article in the newspaper was an embarrassment
to him too and he believes that some of it is most definitely true.
ITEM 8. Manager’s Report
The Town Council reviewed the following documents:
a. a copy of the rental unit code that Orono has for rental properties.
b. A copy of a resignation notice from the RSU.
c. A copy of a letter from the Superintendent pertaining to the first meeting of the Cost Sharing Review Committee.
d. A copy of the Fire Department’s monthly report.
e. A copy of the Irrevocable Stand By Letter of Credit issues by the FHLB in the sum of $2 million for the Town of Veazie via TD Bank.
f. A copy of the email that was sent out pertaining to the recording of the Council meetings and its placement on the website.
g. A copy of an email pertaining to the development of the Hazardous Community Tree Program.
h. A copy of an email sent to Councilor Perkins questioning his pending litigation comment at the last Council meeting.
i. A copy of the Conservation Commission’s minutes and thank you letter.
Manager Reed outlined that he and the assessing team had a phone conference with Dynegy. It was very productive and they will be having several more in the coming weeks. The assessing team will be having a site visit in the coming month.
Manager Reed stated that Parks & Recreation Director informed staff that ‘Veazie Days’ will be the weekend of September 17th. The date was changed due to several conflicts which were causing concerns on attendance.
ITEM 9. Requests for Information and Town Council Comments
There was discussion on how to handle the vacancy now left by Manager Reed. Manager Reed suggested having a meeting to discuss the rights and responsibilities with the Town Attorney and then appoint someone to oversee the department heads. It was the consensus of the Town Council to have a meeting on Tuesday, September 13th at 6:30pm before the Planning Board meeting.
ITEM 10. Warrants: Town Warrant 6 and Town Payroll 6 were circulated for signature.
ITEM 11. Collective Bargaining Agreement
Town Attorney Russell stated that the contract before them is the contract they currently have now but with a few minor changes. The contract is a one year contract with no pay increase. There were a few language changes and new section added which creates an emergency leave provision at the discretion of the Town Manager. A section was deleted because it was inconsistent with another section and the table for pay was modified to show that pay rates remain the same.
Motion By: Councilor Parker—to accept the collective bargaining agreement between the Town of Veazie and the Orono Firefighters Association for the period of July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012. Seconded: Councilor Olson, Voted 5-0 in favor.
ITEM 12. Adjournment: Motion: Councilor Parker—to adjourn the September 12, 2011 Town Council Meeting. Seconded: Councilor Olson. There was no further discussion. Voted 5-0. Meeting adjourned 8:16 pm.
A true record, Attest:
Town of Veazie