Town of Lamoine, Maine
The Official Website of Lamoine's Town Government
Lamoine Board of Selectmen
l-r William Brann, Gary McFarland, Richard Fennelly Jr., Jo Cooper, Cynthia Donaldson
Minutes of February 16, 2012
The meeting came to order at 7:00 PM at the Lamoine Town Hall. Board members present agreed that Richard Fennelly Jr. should chair.
Present were: Selectmen Richard Fennelly Jr., William Brann, Gary McFarland, Cynthia Donaldson; Administrative Assistant Stu Marckoon, RSU 24 Representative Brett Jones, Local School Advisory Committee member Gordon Donaldson.
Agenda Review – There were no changes proposed to the printed agenda and addendum.
Minutes of February 2, 2011 – Gary moved to approve the minutes as printed. Bill 2nd . Vote in favor was 3-0 (Donaldson abstained).
Expenditure Warrant 16 – Selectmen signed the warrant in the amount of $194,451.28. Stu noted that $173,500 was for the RSU 24 monthly bill.
Cash & Budget Report – Richard asked about lagging watercraft excise collections. Stu reported the bulk of those are received in May and June, as there is very little boating activity at this time of year. Cynthia asked where the Cable TV revenues are reported. Stu referred her to the revenue report page.
Contract with Pavement Management Services – Stu recommended continuing to use the services of Pavement Management Services. Richard moved to approve the proposed contract, Gary 2nd . Vote in favor was 4-0, Selectmen signed the contract.
Lien Payment Correspondence – Stu referred to letters to a taxpayer contained in the Selectmen's' material. Richard said the letters seem pretty straight forward. Stu noted there has been no response.
Tax Acquired Property – Stu reported there had been no response from the former owner of the property that was tax acquired in January. He recommended that the parcel be put out to bid for a minimum price to include all back taxes, fees, and interest and next year's projected taxes. Cynthia moved to advertise the property for sale. Richard 2nd . Vote in favor was 4-0.
Local School Advisory Committee/RSU 24 Future – RSU 24 Representative Brett Jones reported there was a school forum held on February 6, 2012 where it was announced that they were starting the process to possibly withdraw from the RSU. He said they need 91 petition signatures and it's the very beginning. He said Stu had e-mailed a link to the state statute, and noted the petition is the very first step required.
Richard asked if the committee has worked through the numbers to make cost comparisons of what it would cost the town to break away from the RSU vs. staying in. Mr. Jones said the RSU office is not able to give them the data they desire. He said the Selectmen might be able to write to the RSU to compel them to supply the data, but the committee has not been able to get complete data. He said the committee has looked at the percentage of the annual budget previously and now, and it's not a big difference.
Richard handed out some spreadsheets he'd prepared. Gordon Donaldson said it's difficult to do any comparisons, and he felt comparisons should wait until the town takes its first vote. Richard said the town should have some information on which to base its vote. Mr. Jones said the spreadsheet does not have all the information.
Dr. Donaldson said he has questions about the direction in which the school organization is headed. He said the committee is exploring an AOS, which is closest to what Union 92 was, and they're talking with other communities. He said by the time the first vote is taken, there should be some cost estimates. Mr. Jones said the town can't return to the Union 92 structure.
Richard explained the numbers on his spreadsheet, saying that on average, it appeared to be about $240,000 less expensive per year under the RSU system. Mr. Jones noted that the money is not buying the same thing that it was previously. Richard handed out another spreadsheet showing student population and a brief discussion followed.
Mr. Jones said a falling school population is a statewide trend. He said the present state administration's reality of what can be done differs from past administrations. Richard said he doesn't know when the population decline might end. Mr. Jones said the numbers appear to be starting to pick up in the past two years. Dr. Donaldson asked what Richard's conclusion was from the population chart. Richard said he's concerned about the town breaking out of the RSU, and that the risk to a small town acting pretty much on its own is special education costs which are now buffered by the RSU. He said as the school population declines, so does the cost to an RSU member town. Mr. Jones said the formula would be recalculated in 2015. Richard stated it's better to be sheltered by the RSU for special education costs. Mr. Jones noted that the RSU agreement determines the town's cost share. A discussion followed on the formula which uses a combination of town valuation and student population to determine the cost share percentage.
Richard said that when the petition is received, he thinks the town needs to be careful to understand all of the aspects involved. He said he spoke with Deputy Education Commissioner James Rier to ask if he is willing to meet with townspeople and was told that Mr. Rier doesn't have the resources to do that, but did offer to meet at his office in Augusta. He said Mr. Rier cautioned that the town needs to be careful to make sure it understands all the considerations of withdrawal. He said it's important to understand what we can before leaping forward after receipt of a petition.
Dr. Donaldson handed out a summary that was distributed at the school forum, and outlined a potential planning process. He said he believes this should be done in sync with other towns, and said they've been talking with Hancock, Otis, Mariaville, Steuben and Cherryfield. He said they want to share costs and return the responsibility for the schools to the community.
Richard said a petition will take Lamoine to a town meeting and there needs to be a public hearing scheduled before that. Mr. Jones said the Selectmen would work out when the vote would take place. There was a brief discussion regarding the required voting method – Stu said he believes the state law requires a referendum.
There was a discussion about the issue of pulling out of RSU 24. Richard said he is opposed, and explained his concerns about special education. He said he felt the effort is being driven by folks who are not sensitive to local property taxes. Mr. Jones said his rationale is self determination. He said he thinks Lamoine can determine best how much should be spent on education and how those monies should be spent. He said the town presently has no say in whatever happens.
Richard said he sees a benefit to having an RSU Board. He said on school closure issues, there are more members on the board that don't have an attachment and can make an impartial decision. A brief discussion followed on school closure issues.
Mr. Jones said the RSU Board is a bad system for making decisions. He said it does not protect the smaller towns. Dr. Donaldson asked Richard if he was suggesting that the town not go through the process. Richard said he was not opposed, but there have to be facts and a public hearing where the information provided is accurate. A brief discussion followed on who can best provide accurate information. Dr. Donaldson said the committee won't have information about where the town is going, and they need to work with other towns. Richard asked if there might be a range of options. Dr. Donaldson suggested there would be. He said there is an opportunity to offer a great education at a reasonable price.
Gary asked if the other towns would join in a coordinated effort and a short discussion followed. Richard asked how education could be offered at a more reasonable cost than the RSU. A brief discussion of numbers followed.
Mr. Jones said the committee's desire is not based solely on numbers – a lot has happened with the governance of RSU 24 that folks are not happy with. Richard said if the town ended up standing alone, the townspeople could always petition to close the school. A brief discussion followed.
Richard said he would like to see student performance data prior to and after the RSU's formation. He said that and the cost structure are the two biggest questions. Mr. Jones said the Selectmen could send a letter asking for a complete accounting of the costs for the Lamoine School. He said he's not been able to get an honest set of numbers. Dr. Donaldson said the Town of Hancock has written a letter, but he's unsure of the results. A brief discussion followed.
Dr. Donaldson said the salary scale of the teachers in RSU 24 has not been standardized. He said three teachers have left the Lamoine School to transfer to Ellsworth for better pay and more stability. He said the RSU is required by law to have one pay scale, and the new contract has two tiers – one for Ellsworth and one for the rest of the schools. A brief discussion followed regarding the teacher contracts.
Mr. Jones said he's spoken with city officials in Ellsworth, and they're fierce to pull out of RSU 24. He said if that should happen there are a lot of ramifications for those remaining in the RSU. Stu noted that he spoke with the city treasurer in Ellsworth earlier in the day who contacted him to find out what Lamoine was doing. There was a discussion regarding what the fallout would be if Ellsworth withdrew.
Dr. Donaldson said there are a lot of people who feel Lamoine should take the initiative and stand on its own feet. He said he hopes the Board of Selectmen lets the process go through and lets the citizens decide. He said it should be an educated vote, unlike the vote in December 2009 which approved the RSU.
Richard said that when the town first started talking about an RSU he was opposed, and was skeptical about the savings. He said he felt the town was strong-armed into doing it. He said now that the town has gone down that road, it appears to be realizing some savings and some of the risk of special education has been spread out. He said he's now reluctant to jump out. Mr. Jones said the special education argument might be valid. He said the town knew where things stood when it was part of Union 92 and he knows the town could do it again. He said the longer the town stays in the RSU, the harder it is to get out. He explained some of the potential upheaval.
Richard said he wouldn't try to hold things up, but he wants to make sure the best information is available. Mr. Jones said the idea is to make an honest assessment of the RSU. Gary asked if another forum is planned. Dr. Donaldson said no, but they are meeting with Hancock on Monday. He said it's useful to attend meetings with other towns. He said they are not official boards.
Stu asked how many members of the Local School Advisory Committee are attending the meetings, because there should be some public notice given. Dr. Donaldson said he wasn't sure whether the meetings qualified as public.
Stu asked if fear of Ellsworth withdrawing from the RSU was a driving force behind the effort in Lamoine. Mr. Jones said there has been some discussion, but that's not been a big issue yet.
Stu asked who would come up with the figures that are required for the ballot question if and when the petition is submitted to the Selectmen. Dr. Donaldson said they would be taking about money, and the costs would likely be divided by other towns, and it wouldn't be too much. There was a discussion about the wording on the petition and where the dollar figures would come from for the Selectmen to place in the ballot question.
Bill said it appears that RSUs are under siege across the state. Mr. Jones said he thinks there is a lot of discontent with the RSU system. Dr. Donaldson said some seem to be working just fine – they're the ones that combined two SAD's that already existed. He said the ones having trouble are those made up of multiple school units such as RSU 24. He said the committee would be back when the petitions are signed and they'll talk about the next step.
Mr. Jones noted that the RSU is currently working on its budget. He said the RSU has been fiscally responsible. A discussion followed on writing a letter to the RSU office requesting accounting for running the Lamoine Consolidated School.
Commendations – Basketball Teams – Selectmen signed certificates honoring the Lamoine boys and girls basketball teams, both of whom played in the RSU 24 small school championship games. The girls won, the boys finished 2nd . Bill noted that both teams displayed incredible sportsmanship in the championship games.
Posting Roads – Richard moved to authorize the Road Commissioner to post the local roads in regard to heavy traffic to coincide with the MDOT postings. Cynthia 2nd . Vote in favor was 4-0.
Bureau of Labor Standards Inspection – Stu reported he received a phone call from the Department of Labor earlier in the day asking why the town had not yet asked for relief from the proposed fine. He said he told the woman who called that he understood that particular fine could not be waived. He said she told him it couldn't, but it could be reduced, so he drafted a letter at their suggestion. Gary moved to send the letter. Richard 2nd . Vote in favor was 4-0.
Energy Audit – Stu reported the energy auditor called earlier in the day, and that a report could be expected in a couple of weeks. He said much of the focus would be on lighting and weatherproofing. He said the auditor told him much of the focus is on gas installations, but the BTU savings vs. cost of installation results in a very long payback. He said chief engineer Mo Oliver has put together a cost for a new oil system which is about half the price of a propane system.
Offer from Pepsi Cola – Stu reported that he e-mailed a flyer from Pepsi Cola but couldn't come up with any program that might qualify. Selectmen had no suggestions.
Resolve – 50th wedding anniversary – Selectmen signed a resolve honoring Harold and Nancy Boynton on their 50 th wedding anniversary which is a week from today.
2011 Solid Waste Report – Selectmen said they'd reviewed the draft of the report sent the previous day via e-mail and saw no problems with it. Stu said he intended to send it in on Friday.
Excise Tax Exemption Ordinance – Stu reported that state law now allows a community to enact an ordinance to exempt active duty military from excise tax and wondered if the Selectmen were interested in doing so. Richard asked if there were any in town that might qualify. Stu said he could only think of one or two. Cynthia said she would like to see this on a town meeting warrant. Stu said he would draft it up.
Excess Tuition Budget – Stu reported he'd received new figures earlier today from the RSU office on the cost for excess tuition at MDI and they're significantly lower than the budget committee had recommended. He said that could be amended on the floor of town meeting. Cynthia said she was mystified why the numbers would change.
Shellfish Ordinance – Richard said the Joint Municipal Board has found that amending the Shellfish Ordinance is extremely difficult. He said he would like to take a straw poll at the town meeting to see if residents would be receptive to allowing the Boards of Selectmen in each town to approve amendments to the ordinance. Stu suggested that be cleared with the moderator ahead of time and be brought up during the budget article.
Richard said there have been attendance issues at the joint municipal board meetings. He said the ordinance appears to be working well and the local harvesters report that they've enjoyed an increased harvest.
Executive Session – Richard moved to go into executive session to discuss a matter that is confidential by statute pursuant to 1MRSA §405(6)(f). Gary 2nd . Vote in favor was 4-0. In at 8:38, out at 8:44 PM.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 8:44 PM.
Stu Marckoon, Adm. Asst.