Minutes of the Chebeague Transition Committee April 11, 2007 at 7:00pm at the Parish House (Accepted 4/25/07
The meeting was called to order at 7:09 pm.
Members present: Donna Damon, Mark Dyer, Leon Hamilton, David Hill, John Martin (Chair), Jim Phipps, Doug Ross, Stephen Todd and Carol White. Steve Moriarty served as invited Chair.
Beth Howe served as secretary.
1. Minutes: Jim Phipps moved, seconded by John Martin to approve the minutes of April 1, 2007. In favor: 7; abstain Mark Dyer and Jim Phipps. David Hill said he had sent Beth Howe an amendment to the April 4 minutes that added an approved motion that she had forgotten. The minutes of April 4 were tabled so that Beth could send out the amended version. Donna Damon also said that the subject of the executive session was inaccurate and should read ³personnel matters² rather than ³employee benefits². Beth agreed to send out an amended version of the minutes.
2. Questions and comments from the public: none.
3. Report from the Land Use Subcommittee
Beth Howe handed out a draft of an application to the State Planning Office for support next year for developing a comprehensive plan. She asked to have it discussed at the next meeting. Her committee will recommend that the TC support making the application. The deadline is April 20. There is $5000 in the draft budget for the local match. Based on that match and Chebeague¹s population, the new Town can apply for $10,000. Leon Hamilton asked whether submitting the application would commit the Town to accept the money. Steve Moriarty said it would not. Jonathan KomLosy asked what role the comprehensive plan plays in land use regulation. Steve Moriarty said that it is the underpinning for the zoning and subdivision ordinances. Jim Phipps asked whether it would be easier if the TC did not wait until next week to discuss it. Jim Phipps moved, seconded by Donna Damon to authorize the Chair to work with Beth to finish, sign and submit the application. Approved unanimously.
Beth asked whether her subcommittee should explore having a memorandum of understanding with an engineering firm. Jim Phipps asked whether there would be a need for engineering services soon after July 1. Beth said that if there were cases before the Cumberland Planning Board that would be carried over to the new town, there might be a need. Donna Damon said it would be better not to tie the hands of the selectmen in this matter. Carol suggested getting a list from Cumberland of the firms they use. Jim moved, seconded by Donna Damon that the Town meeting authorize the Town Administrator to engage such engineers on pending land use cases as have been used by the Town of Cumberland on those cases. David Hill and Leon Hamilton said that this motion may not be needed, the Administrator can do as he sees fit. Donna said that she is getting calls from people who are worried about getting approval by July 1. Leon moved to table the motion. The vote was 6 in favor and three opposed???????????
Beth presented the recommendation from the Land Use Subcommittee to recommend to the first Town Meeting that it adopt the proposed ordinance setting up the Planning Board. Carol White said it would be better to let people review the ordinance and discuss it next week. Beth said there were several issues that needed discussing. The ordinance could then be revised, if necessary and discussed again next week.
Membership. The subcommittee recommended five regular members serving for three-year terms and two alternates serving for one. Beth said that several other towns have alternates and that their first year is a learning year. They participate in meetings but are only authorized by the Chairman to vote if one or more of the regular members is absent. After the initial year they become regular members. The subcommittee preferred having a seven-member board with a quorum of 4 over a five member board with a quorum of three, and that the proposal for having alternates was in between. Donna Damon said she thought the system of having alternates was too complicated; the alternates would not be sufficiently committed if they did not have a vote, so seven members would be better. Steve Moriarty divided the issue into two sections:
Number of members: Leon said he thought a smaller board was better – it would nave less trouble arriving at decisions. Donna said she preferred 7. Mark said that a 7-member board with a quorum of 4 worried him. David Hill said he thought 7 would provide a critical mass. Ken Hamilton agreed. Jim Phipps said that he thought a quorum of 3 was too small to be broadly representative, and liked the idea of 7 members. On issues like zoning that touch property rights it would be useful to set the bar for reaching agreement fairly high.
Alternates: Donna Damon said that she thought that having two classes of members would be a bad idea. To be appointed, people have to express an interest and they should be regular members. How would it be decided initially who the alternates and the regular members were? It would be simpler. David Hill thought having alternates was a good idea and the selectmen could initially choose the alternates by lot. Leon asked how the selectmen decide who to appoint and what issues the Planning Board makes final decisions on. Steve Moriarty said that they are authorized under state law to review subdivision proposals and under the zoning ordinance to review site plans for new development. Their decisions on these issues are not appealable to the selectmen or the Zoning Board of Appeals. They can only be appealed in the courts. Leon said he thought such decisions should be made by Town Meeting. Steve said that this would make the process slow and cumbersome. Bette Tellinghuisen said that state law requires towns to have planning boards and gives them powers. This is not entirely within the control of the town. Donna and Steve Moriarty said that this is a powerful board. It also advises the Selectmen on things like contract zoning. Cheryl Buxbaum said that all Planning Board meetings are open to the public and Planning Board members can be removed for cause. Stephen Todd said that if they have a lot of power, it would be better to have seven members. Jonathan KomLosy said that the Planning Board only has the power to apply the ordinances, not to make them. Peter Olney said that the advantage of having alternates is that they would be available to fill in for absent members, so that voting membership at meetings would not be as low as the basic quorum of 3 or 4. Beth Howe said she had been an alternate in Wisconsin and that it worked well and alternates were committed to coming to meetings.
Steve Moriarty took a straw poll on membership. One person voted for 5 regular members and 2 alternates. Eight voted for 7 regular members.
Jim Phipps asked whether the draft ordinance had any provision for removing members who fail to attend meetings. Beth said that if a member did not attend one third of the meetings in a year s/he could be removed by the selectmen/. Jim suggested changing that to missing two meetings in a row. Stephen Todd asked whether absences could sometimes be excused. Jim agreed to that.
Appointment versus election of the Planning Board: Beth said her committee had seriously considered recommending election but had decided against it because there would have to be a 90 day interval between the Town Meeting that approved the ordinance and the Town Meeting that elected the Board. Mark Dyer said that residents had been lobbying him for and against election. Donna Damon said it would be better to start out with an appointed Board; people interested in the Planning Board might not be willing to run for office. The job of the TC is just to set things up. The selectmen or Town Meeting could change to an elected Board later if that seemed useful. Mark asked how appointment would work. The Government Structure Subcommittee thought the appointment process would involve the Selectmen providing a form asking voters what Town committees they would be interested in serving on. The candidates for a particular committee would be interviewed by the selectmen and the members chosen from those interviewed. Donna said she hoped that the selectmen would represent the diversity of the Chebeague community. Peter Rice said he thought the Planning Board should be appointed. They are quasi-judicial, applying the law to specific cases. He thought that the idea of elected judges was not good and he thought the same about the Planning Board. Bette Tellinghuisen supported appointment by the selectmen. All committee members have substantial powers. The selectmen can remove members of committees for cause. The voters can remove a selectmen.
Steve Moriarty called for a straw vote on election versus appointment. Eight members voted for appointment. One voted for election.
Residence of members of the Planning Board: Beth said the Land Use Subcommittee wanted the TC to consider allowing non-resident taxpayers to serve on the Planning Board. They own 60 percent of island assessed value and many are committed to Chebeague. Long Island allows non-residents to serve on its committees. Brann and Isaacson¹s land use lawyer, Kevin Beal, said he thought that a town without a charter (as Chebeague would be) could not specify who could be members of its committees other than that they be residents of the State of Maine. Beth said she had not asked him to research this issue in detail, but he would if asked. Donna said that the Land Use Subcommittee has brought this issue to the Governmental Structure Subcommittee, and Governmental Structure thought that members of committees should be voters. It is easy to establish voting residence in Maine, and anyone who wants to serve on a committee can do so. Summer people are not on Chebeague in the middle of the winter to see what islanders have to live with. She does value their input and they can participate in meetings. Steve Moriarty polled other people in the room to see what their expectation was about residence. Those asked said they had not thought about having non-voters serve on committees; they assumed members would be voters. Jim Phipps said that if the TC wants to restrict membership to voters, then Kevin Beal should be asked to research whether only charter towns can do this.
Steve Moriarty called for a straw vote on residence. The vote was unanimous for limiting membership on committees to voters. Beth said she would ask Kevin Beal whether Chebeague could do this.
Mark Dyer moved, seconded by Jim Phipps that the Planning Bord Ordinance be tabled. Beth will ask for legal advice on residence, will redraft the ordinance to reflect the straw polls taken at this meeting and send it by email to everyone. Donna suggested that everyone look at the Maine Municipal Association website about information on planning boards. She is willing to let people use her password.
4. Old Business:
John Martin went over the arrangements for sending out the mailing for the budget workshop. He has written a cover letter. David will give the budget pages to Carol. She will put the package together. John will ask Ester Knight about refreshments. Jonathan KomLosy asked whether there will be straw polls at the budget meeting. David Hill said probably not. He will work through the budget line by line, having discussion on any items the public wants to talk about. The subcommittees need to be ready to talk about the detail of their budgets. Then the TC will take the budget back, make changes and put it out again. Donna Damon asked whether a copy of the full budget could be pot in the library. David said it changes from day to day. The final employee benefit numbers will change the totals a lot. Stephen Todd is still working on his capital budget. Donna said to put a note on it saying that it is a moving target.
Carol White reported that the TC had interviewed one of the superintendent candidates. The meeting with the other has been postponed because of expected storms. The third candidate may be interviewed next week.
Donna Damon said that the process for hiring a town administrator is continuing. She hopes that the Town Clerk interviews can be done soon since the Clerk has to take a course in May.
David Hill reported that the Town of Chebeague Island has been issued a federal tax ID by the IRS.
John Martin said he wants to make two lists of tasks: one for things to be done for the first Town Meeting, the second of things to be done so that the Town office can open July 2. Carol asked whether a decision has been made about having Town Meeting on July 1. John said that this has not been decided. The TC has to have a discussion of Peter Lowe¹s memo. Several people said they had not had a chance to read it. Steve Moriarty suggested that be a topic for Sunday¹s meeting. Donna Damon said that Peter Lowe gives the TC three options about the Town Meeting. She is concerned from the way Peter Lowe¹s memo is worded, that he thinks Chebeague is choosing a Town Manager form of government. David Hill agreed. Jim Phipps said he thought this may just be a matter of semantics. He suggested asking Peter Lowe to be available for the Sunday meeting by phone. Carol White suggested asking Peter Lowe by email about the form of government issue.
Mark Dyer said one of the to-do¹s for July 2 is renovating the Town office. He has a group of volunteers chomping at the bit and heeds a plan from the Governmental Structure Subcommittee that he can take to Bill Longley in order to bet a building permit. Also Peter Rice has to provide information on how the ADA regulations would apply to the space. Donna Damon and Bette Tellinghuisen said that the latter has a friend who will do the plan but not for a few more days. Mark said the plan does not need to show furniture, just structural changes. He asked Donna to go talk with Longley at the Town Office.
Steve Moriarty left.
John Martin asked whether anyone has worked out the computer hardware and software that will be needed. Donna said her committee has spec-ed it out but have no money to buy it. David Hill said he had reported several months ago that TDBankNorth thinks it would be more practical for the TC to get a private loan rather than borrowing transition money from them. It is difficult to lend to a non-entity without a guarantor. If there is someone willing to guarantee a loan, it would be ore direct to just borrow the money from them. Jim Phipps said he would not know who to go to for such a private loan. David said he has someone who is willing. Carol White asked about the amount and terms. David said $50,000 at 0 percent interest, paid back after July 1 by the Town. Mark Dyer said that the TC had made a decision on this issue and had voted not to accept a personal loan but to borrow from the bank. Carol pressed David on whether it really was not possible to borrow from the bank. David said that the bond counsel said that the TC is not a public entity and cannot get a municipal loan. The bond counsel thought it would make more sense to have a private loan. Leon Hamilton said he had not heard about there being any problem about borrowing from the bank. He is not in favor of a private loan. Jim Phipps asked whose tax ID would be on the account. David said that the arrangement was intended to be informal. He would use the Town EIN on the account. Carol White said she thinks from talking with Peter Lowe that the Transition Committee does not have the authority to spend money. It isn¹t necessary to spend money before July 2. Mark Dyer and David Hill said that the Town office has to be open on July 2, that is the expectation that has been created. The TC has been interviewing candidates based on this expectation. Stephen Todd said he was uncomfortable with the idea of a private loan, but that the TC should do it to get the Town going. One person should be designated to write the checks and that person would have to be accountable to the TC. Jim said that what is needed is a letter of intent with the lender. S/he would have to accept that the Town Meeting might not be willing to pay the money back. Carol said she would like to get a reading on the legality of borrowing from Peter Lowe. She does not want to do anything illegal. The others agreed. During this discussion the following motion was developed:
Donna Damon moved, seconded by David Hill that the Transition Committee, on behalf of the Town of Chebeague Island, borrow $50,000 through an unsecured loan to use to cover the start up costs for the Town of Chebeague Island. This transition expense is listed in the proposed Town budget. The motion would only be operative to the extent that it is legal.
5. Donna moved to table the motion until after an executive session. At 9:50 John Martin moved, seconded by David Hill, to go into executive session pursuant to MRSA 405.6.A.1 – Title 1, Chapter 13, Section 405 to discuss contract negotiations. The motion was passed unanimously.
At 10:55 David Hill moved, seconded by Jim Phipps to come out of executive session. The motion was passed unanimously.
Stephen Todd said it is part of the motion to seek legal advice about borrowing and spending. Donna said she was concerned about the quality of the legal advice. David said if it is illegal for the TC to borrow it would be illegal whether the lender is an individual or a bank. The motion was brought back onto the table. The vote was unanimously in favor of the motion.
Carol White left.
6. At 10:04 Donna moved, seconded by Mark Dyer that the TC go into executive session pursuant to MRSA 405.6.A.1 – Title 1, Chapter 13, Section 405 to discuss personnel matters.
At 10:35 Mark Dyer moved, seconded by Stephen Todd to come out of executive session. The vote was unanimously in favor.
7. New Business
Donna handed out a set of recommendations on the Board of Selectmen. They are based on the Cumberland Charter but written in ordinance form. They define what the selectmen will do. John Martin said he would put them on the agenda for the next Wednesday meeting.
At 10:37 David Hill moved, seconded by John martin, to adjourn. Accepted.