POLAND — Selectmen on Tuesday joined the growing chorus of officials from Androscoggin County towns calling on county commissioners to reconsider their decision to restore much of what the county Budget Committee had cut from commissioners’ salaries and benefits.
The board’s vote directing Town Manager Bradley Plante to draft such a letter for the board’s signatures was unanimous.
Poland resident Norm Beauparlant, who serves on the county Budget Committee, said that in his several years of dealing with municipal issues in the area he couldn’t recall any where all the county towns were in virtual agreement.
Beauparlant told the board about a letter sent Tuesday to the Attorney General’s Office in Augusta from the county Budget Committee. It asks for a ruling on who, according to the new county charter, has the final authority to set the commissioners’ salaries and benefits.
On Nov. 19 the Budget Committee voted to slash commissioners’ salaries and eliminate paying for their health and dental benefits. It based its actions on the fact that, as of Jan. 1, the commission will expand from three members to seven. Once a county administrator is hired, commissioners will hand over day-to-day administrative oversight but still set policy.
On Nov. 25, Commissioners Beth Bell and Elaine Markas voted to overturn the cuts, restoring much of what had been cut. Chairman Randall Greenwood abstained.
According to reports, the commissioners took the action after receiving a ruling from attorney Bryan Dench that said the new charter gave commissioners the final say over their pay.
Selectmen gasped audibly when Beauparlant said it appears county commissioners set salaries for the three commissioners at a base of $7,000 and allowed them to continue receiving health benefits for themselves and family members, and set salaries for the four commissioners to be seated in January at a base of $5,000 with health benefits for them only.
Selectman Steve Robinson said he thought a good solution would be for county commissioners to call a meeting and quickly undo what they have done.
Beauparlant said the Budget Committee is hoping for a quick resolution to the question but noted that the Attorney General’s Office may or may not take it up.
In other business, selectmen postponed a public hearing on the demolition of a dangerous building at 329 North Raymond Road after learning the owner has taking steps to bring the building down. The board will ask Code Enforcement Officer Nick Adams to examine the property in 90 days to determine whether the demolition is complete and, if it isn’t, take up the postponed meeting.
Selectmen also signed paperwork for final town approval to acquire the Furman property. Townspeople voted Dec. 6 to accept the donation of $32,800 raised by the Conservation Commission for its purchase.
The approval gives Plante permission to close on the property Wednesday, Dec. 17, at a meeting with owner Jennifer Furman in Portland.