ROXBURY — Oxford County Commissioner Dave Duguay of Byron is often called on to moderate town meetings in Western Maine.

And one of the first things he does after being sworn in is to remind people to turn off their cellphones.

But Duguay changed his tone March 24 much to the amusement of his audience at a Roxbury selectmen’s workshop with Byron and community officials and emergency responders about communications dead zones in both towns.

“When I moderate town meetings in Byron or Roxbury, I tell people, ‘Don’t turn off your cellphones, because you’re not going to get any calls anyway,'” he said.

— Terry Karkos

Why an increase is called a ‘cut’

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AUBURN — At Wednesday’s night public hearing on the Auburn school budget, School Committee Chairman Tom Kendall said residents have noticed officials have used the word “cut” to describe reductions from the superintendent’s recommended budget.

Residents have said getting more is not a cut.

That’s true, Kendall said. He explained that the $39.9 million budget Superintendent Katy Grondin recommended — at 5 percent higher — was a “maintenance” budget because of uncontrollable higher costs.

Reducing spending so the budget would not be larger than the cost of living, as the City Council asked, would mean a cut in programs or student services.

“That’s where we’re coming from,” Kendall said. “I apologize for any confusion.”

At Wednesday’s hearing everyone testifying spoke for a bigger school budget. No one spoke in favor of reductions. 

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— Bonnie Washuk

“Can you hear me now?”

ANDOVER — Sitting at the selectmen meeting Tuesday night was akin to watching the Verizon wireless commercial actor Paul Marcarelli asking, “Can you hear me now?”

Newly-elected Selectman Jane C. Rich is at home recovering from a fall on Valentine’s Day. So for her first meeting, just her voice was present via the conference call function of a handset phone that wasn’t working well.

Selectmen Keith Farrington and Jim Adler started the meeting and then stopped it when Hope Peterson, the selectmen’s secretary, asked aloud, “Jane? Are you still there?”

After a few seconds, Rich said she was. So Peterson told both men to talk louder to ensure Rich heard them conducting town business.

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But Farrington got up and brought “Jane” to the table, placing the handset in front of Adler.  “Hello, Jane,” Farrington said.

“I’m here,” Rich replied.

The men then continued the meeting, but it soon became apparent that Rich wasn’t voting on anything.

“Jane? Are you still there?” Peterson asked loudly.

When Farrington asked the same question toward the handset, Rich replied, “I’m still here, but I can’t hear anything you guys are saying if you’re talking.”

“We are, but the phone doesn’t work good,” Farrington said.

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“I gathered that,” Rich said.

When Farrington said they just hired the town’s assessor again, Rich said to laughter, “You can check in again and see if I’m still alive.”

Later on, Farrington said, louder than normal toward the handset, “We need a new General Assistance director. Are you listening, Jane?”

“Is that an invitation to me to be the General Assistance director?” Rich asked.

“So moved,” Farrington said. Rich got the position with a 2-0 vote.

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