Bethel, Newry seek code, plumbing officers

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NEWRY – Bethel Town Manager Scott Cole and Newry officials met Tuesday night to work out a plan to hire and share a full-time code enforcement officer and licensed plumbing inspector after losing Rich St. John last month to Otisfield.

In the interim, Cole is acting as Bethel’s code enforcement officer, with help from Sewer Superintendent Rob Gundersen, while St. John worked Wednesdays only in the same position in Newry. Additionally, St. John’s alternate licensed plumbing inspector, Virgil “Tink” Conkright of Newry, is doing that work for both towns.

Cole said St. John, of Harrison, worked for both Bethel and Newry for about five years.

“When we hired Rich, both towns agreed to hire someone who was superb, and we found that in Rich St. John,” Cole said after Tuesday’s Newry selectmen’s meeting. “Rich took us to an entirely new level and enriched the standards.”

St. John, contacted at home Tuesday night, said his last official day of work in Bethel and Newry was Dec. 18, two weeks after he was hired by Otisfield as a full-time code enforcement officer and local licensed plumbing inspector.

“Hopefully, my work over the last five years has educated everyone about what the rules are,” St. John said.

After he left, Cole sought applicants, advertising in three Maine newspapers.

“This is a challenging position, which performs all duties typically associated with CEO and LPI jobs, as well as enforcement of planning board-imposed conditions of approval regarding site plans and subdivisions,” the ad states.

Although the deadline to apply is Thursday, Jan. 11, Cole said about a dozen applicants had sent resumes. Pay for a trained CEO/LPI for Bethel and Newry is $39,200, what Cole said Bethel was paying St. John. Bethel would then bill Newry for that town’s share.

If Bethel and Newry can’t hire someone skilled in both jobs, Cole and Newry selectmen agreed to train the person.

Because Bethel and Newry have an interlocal agreement, the hiring decision is up to Cole and Newry Administrative Assistant Loretta Powers, who told Cole she didn’t want to do double duty as a code enforcement officer.

Cole, however, said he would handle it for Bethel, with help from Gundersen, who gets a $200 stipend a week to examine construction sites on Cole’s behalf. Cole then signs the permits.

“The town manager’s job goes in all directions, so, this is just another point on the compass,” he said.

So far, he’s had to handle a couple of erosion problems, and has issued several permits.

“It’s an element of honor. The people in the business know what they’re doing, and they adhere to the codes. We have professional builders in the area. They’re not slackers, they’re first class. Rich’s departure was a surprise – not welcome – but, it came at the right time in terms of weather,” Cole said.

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