Oxford board upholds rec board; orders money transferred to town

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OXFORD — The Board of Selectmen voted  3-2 Thursday night to allow the Recreation Advisory Board to continue its work, but directed it turn over about $11,000 in its bank account to the town.

Samantha Hewey and Scott Hunter casting the dissenting votes.

The 11 members of the Advisory Board are all volunteers are appointed by selectmen. The board has nonprofit status and raises money for recreation programs and staffs them. The money in its bank account, which is not under its nonprofit status, would be placed in a separate fund earmarked for recreation activities.

The decision by selectmen to continue the board followed more than 90 minutes of discussion in a packed meeting room at the Municipal Building.

The meeting was sparked by Town Manager Butch Asselin’s suggestion the Advisory Board’s activities and meetings be postponed, in part, because he believes some of the the board’s actions have resulted in a “hostile work environment.” 

He told the board he has spent an inordinate amount of time on the Recreation Advisory Board’s needs, instead of the board going through the proper chain of command to Recreation Department Director Kathleen Dillingham.

Asselin and others said there has been an history of contentious meetings, in-house fighting and confrontations with the Advisory Board.

Dillingham told selectmen that in the month and a half since she has been hired for the 30-hour-a-week job, she has had trouble moving forward with departmental plans because of a hostile work environment caused in large part by rumors that circulate on social media.

“I am not a dictator,” she said to some who thought dissolving the Advisory Committee would leave a single person in command.

Advisory Board Chairwoman Lori Turgeon and other members and supporters said the board is needed to provide volunteers for programs.

“We’ve put a lot of work into this community to just go away,” she said. “I’m asking you to continue what we’re doing.”

Selectmen agreed they should meet with the Advisory Board and Dillingham to lay out a plan on which everyone can agree and follow so concerns are brought to the recreation director to bring to the town manager.

In other matters, selectmen:

• Agreed to new fees for hourly and day use of the Community Center on weekends.

• Appointed Jarek Mains to the Planning Board.

• Appointed Henry Jackson to the Budget Committee.

• Gave the town manager permission to enter an employee loan agreement with Oxford Helping Hands.

• Approved a mass-gathering notification for the Oxford County Fair.

• Approved a liquor license renewal for Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar.

• Approved Fire Chief Gary Sacco’s request to buy self-contained breathing apparatus and Lifepak units.

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Recreation Advisory Board Chairwoman Lori Turgeon, center, speaks to a resident Thursday night during a meeting with selectmen about the board’s future. (Leslie H. Dixon/Advertiser Democrat)

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