Buxton Charter Commission
February 11, 2010
Submitted by Stephanie Grinnell
Call to order at 6:30 pm, all present: Chairman Andy Townsend, Vice-Chairman Dianne Senechal, Selectman Dan Collomy, Judy Sjulander, May Schumacher, Jennifer Barschdorf, David Dunn, Brent Havu and Larry Miller.
Ebin Marsh, Former Town Manager (6:30)
Marsh is a former town manager for Gorham, he has a four-year degree in public management from the University of Maine. Began career in Berwick, then was town manager in Gorham for 10 years before going into private business owning/operating Hillside Lumber in Westbrook. Currently working as director of cooperative services for Greater Portland Council. (Marsh and May Schumacher know each other from mission trip to Honduras.)
Marsh said during his time in Gorham, the manager position was well defined: the manager was appointed by the elected council. He said there were understandings between the manager and seven member council. Marsh said it was difficult at times to remain objective based on personality and strong interests on the part of councilors.
Marsh said the manager position is a very public and visible one, the manager must be available to public and council as well as prepare for meetings.
Marsh said he feels the commission, no matter what forms of government are considered, will return to a manager because management gets things done efficiently and with purpose in response to plans. Specific to Buxton, Marsh is familiar with the town from his time in Gorham and having grown up in Gorham. He said Buxton is a growing community with growing needs. However, Buxton has had the selectmen form of government since 1772 and if that is what works, it is what works. Marsh said Maine has a higher number of town managers than any other state; he estimated at 150 managers statewide. He urged the commission to consider all options.
Marsh was manager in Gorham from 1969 to 1979 and was one of the first town managers. When Marsh first arrived as manager, the fire and police departments were new and struggling, town hall was located in a small building on School Street and the town was growing at about 10 percent per year, from 7,000 to 9,000 in population. Public works at the time consisted on two part-time employees and a dump truck, dispatch and town clerk services were run out of people’s homes.
One of Marsh’s first moves as manager was to establish a new charter, rethink the town’s organizational structure, service delivery and facilities. He organized a full time public works department with around 10 trucks and plows, built the current municipal center to house all town services, activated a local development group to encourage more business in newly established industrial park. There were also changes made regarding the capital improvement budget, contracting for full time planning services and kept tax rate fairly stable.
When Marsh was chosen as manager in Gorham, the town was already familiar with the council-manager form of government but there was a time of adjustment. Following his hiring, the council was increased from five members to seven and town meeting was discontinued.
Town employees when Marsh left Gorham included full time public works staff and director, town clerk, near 24 hour dispatch services, treasurer, tax collector and deputies for each, office staff for excise and property tax collection. Marsh said it is good to have someone available to answer questions when the manager is not available.
Marsh said financial justifications of hiring a manager are hard to explain in general terms because each town has different needs. Marsh said though streamlining government is usually good, sometimes there is a need for faster response to local needs.
Five minute recess.
Terence Christy Standish Council Chair, Mike Phinney Gorham Council Chair (7:15)
Christy lived alternately in Standish and South Portland as a child, he has been a teacher and principal in South Portland and Windham. He previously served as town council chairman in South Portland. Due to term limitations, this year is Christy’s last year on Standish Town Council.
Phinney was raised in Gorham and has been on the council for 14 years and served on the planning board before council. Phinney was elected after Marsh left Gorham.
Standish has had a town manager for more than 40 years as well as a seven member council.
Christy said the town council chairman tries to keep the councilors on the same page and reminds them to go through the town manager so everyone knows what is happening. Executive sessions are used to speak with the manager if a councilor has an issue with the way something is handled.
Phinney said day to day issues are handled by the manager and much of the information passed along to the council is filtered by the manager.
Christy said Standish town government is composed of the town manager, his secretary, an appointed town clerk, assessor, finance director and assistant, payroll, billing, fire chief. Standish employees are paid hourly aside from salaried department heads. Standish population is about 9,500.
Phinney said Gorham town government consists of town manager, clerk, tax collector, planning director, building inspector, fire chief and per diem fire personnel, town manager assistant who is also in charge of human resources, police chief and officers and three or four office staff at town hall.
Standish town manager does firing, with communication with council. Department heads communicate with manager.
Phinney said Gorham town manager also handles hiring and firing.
Standish still has town meeting. The budget process begins with the council, then budget committee, then town meeting for approval.
Gorham town manager presents budget to council, council participates in workshops and public hearings, council approves budget.
Standish has between 27 and 32 full time employees. Gorham has more. Both council chairmen requested additional time to gather budget numbers and will submit the numbers at a later date to the commission.
Standish councilors are paid $2,000 per year and are granted a mileage stipulation. Gorham councilors are paid $2,500 with slightly more paid to the chairman.
Standish does have a personnel committee made up three councilors appointed by chairman. Gorham does not have a personnel committee, personnel is handled by manager.
Standish town council meets once per month for a meeting and once per month for a workshop. Members of committees may have meetings five nights per week, though.
Gorham town council meets once per month, occasionally a second meeting is needed. Committees meet once per month.
If there is a problem, it is handled by the manager, who in turn notifies councilors in both towns.
Gorham Town Council is limited to $250,000 unbudgeted spending without voter approval. Standish Town Council is limited to $75,000.
Standish town manager has been there 12 years. Gorham town manager has been there for 16 or 17 years. In both towns, the manager contract is reviewed and voted on by council each year.
Approval of minutes from last meeting
Jan. 21 – question about path we are going to take, page 2 sec b: “there will not be a hearing until there is a draft of proposed changes” change to – discussion about whether or not there should be a hearing before there is a draft of changes to the charter. No decision was made. Or something similar.
John Myers - spelling correction, Ebin Marsh – spelling correction, number correction to 338 surveys
Minutes approved with changes.
Jan. 28 – add page 3, section starts with selectmen suggested… add personnel turnover is “1 person year.”
Minutes accepted with changes noted. Larry Miller abstained.
A member of the public, Mr. Anthony, asked how survey results will be considered as the commission moves forward. The commission pointed out while some numbers could be agreed upon; parts of the survey were not consistent. Some commission members shared opinions that the survey results will be considered at their discretion and as part of the whole.
Review of Correspondence
An email from Buxton resident Cyrus McCall was read. The email requested the commission set forth rules in the charter regarding logging in town-owned parks. The commission determined the request does not fall within commission jurisdiction but the email was taken under advisement.
The commission discussed next steps to take, whether additional people should be interviewed or if the commission should schedule a hearing. The commission discussed creating scenarios of forms of governments to present to public for hearing.
MOTION: To form several form of government scenarios and identify the advantages and disadvantages, cost and benefits of each in a manner than can be presented in a public hearing so people can be more informed. The meeting will be televised.
Motion seconded and approved, Dan Collomy opposed.
Set agenda, open issue: forming scenarios, next Charter Commission Meetings are Feb. 18 and 25; March 11
Other New Business
Charter Commission Meeting, Thursday, February 18, 2010 6:30pm
Charter Commission Meeting, Thursday, February 25, 2010 6:30pm
Mr. Anthony spoke again. He said he spoke with the Waterboro administrator about her salary of $48,500 and retirement 3 percent employee match and said she works hand in hand with selectmen at that pay scale without a secretary. He asked what time frame the commission is considering for public hearing. He also said he is not sure the commission should be considering only the top and bottom scenarios but those in between as well. He urged the commission to be cautious in moving forward.
Another member of the public thanked the commission for changing rules around public comments during meetings.
Adjournment at 8:54 pm