November 22, 2013






Lubec selectmen adopt new policy on public comment
by JD Rule


     As promised, the Lubec Select Board wasted no time in developing a policy to administer public commentary during regular board meetings. The intent to develop the policy was announced during the October 24 meeting, when the board implemented a suspension of public comment in response to the chaotic meeting of October 10. After Town Administrator John Sutherland read the new policy to a standing‑room‑only room during the November 7 meeting, board members immediately voted for adoption, to include minor "housekeeping" changes suggested by Town Clerk Betty Case.
     The complete text of the public comment policy is available at the town office and an abstract is included in the new guide, "Board of Selectperson's Meeting." The policy is intended to "provide guidance for the orderly procedure of the public comment portion" of board meetings; it acknowledges that "opinions can be raised by individuals who are passionate in their beliefs." It provides that the public comment period will be moderated by the select board chair, and that only speakers recognized by the chair can speak, and then for two minutes. It states, "All parties involved in the discussions must remain courteous and respectful at all times."
     Following the adoption of the new policy, board Chair Maureen Glidden brought up the topic of the petition presented to the board on October 10 by resident Bob Judd, which had been referred to the Maine Municipal Association (MMA) for legal review. The petition asked that the board impose a moratorium on the new construction of certain types of retail establishments until "the voters of the Town of Lubec are provided the time and opportunity to fully consider" the effects of such an introduction. The MMA response was then read to the board; it pointed out that the board lacks legal authority to create such a moratorium, which can only be enacted by the voters.
     Following Glidden's motion to "not act on the petition for the reasons stated," Selectman Sara McConnell commented, "Some kind of forum should be opened where people can talk about this."
     "When we did the comprehensive plan three years ago," said Selectman Michael Scrivani, "no one wanted ordinances."
     Recognizing that many of the individuals crowding into the room had come to express their feelings about the proposed Family Dollar store, Glidden opened the floor to comment. "I signed that petition," says Tina Wormell, "not because I'm for or against the dollar store, but because I just don't know enough about it."
"I don't have a nice feeling about this new policy," said George Albani, adding, "It sounds like you want to shut the town up."
     "Tax revenue will be coming to the town," said Selectman James Jones, who also said he believed Family Dollar would bring "a number of jobs."
     "This procedure is a step in the right direction," said Ethan Bien, "but this whole issue is that the select board took it on themselves to invite Family Dollar without considering the wishes of the people."
     "There's no standard for enterprises in this town," observed town Assessor and Code Enforcement Officer Jim Clark, in response to a question about the alterations Family Dollar made to its corporate standards in constructing the recently opened store in Eastport.
     The final comment in the discussion came from resident Bob Foster, who stated that he has "10 years experience as a code enforcement officer" in a different Maine town. "The comprehensive plan must have ordinances to enforce it," he said. "The town should consider establishing a committee to review ordinances."
     Glidden's original motion, to decline acting on the Judd petition, passed 4‑1, with McConnell voting against it.

Wood pellet proposal accepted

     In other business before the board, the matter of the heating plant for the town office again came up. "This has been before the board several times," Glidden remarked, referring to the proposal by Pelletco LLC of Orono, to install a wood‑pellet heating system. "I think it's time we made a decision." The current system is "30-plus years old," has been repaired recently and is believed unreliable. The oil‑fired furnace not only heats the offices, but also the adjoining garage where several fire trucks are parked.
     Selectman Michael Scrivani moved to accept the 10‑year option offered by Pelletco, which provides for the lowest per‑BTU cost and also a one‑dollar equipment buy‑out at the end of that time.
     Jones expressed his concern that the oil system, which is contractually required by Pelletco to remain operational in a standby mode, will probably not last 10 years, thus making replacement necessary anyway.
      "We need to go with the biggest savings for the town," said McConnell, seconding the Scrivani motion, which ultimately passed. "We'll start putting some money aside each year to replace the oil system," Glidden said.
      In closing, Town Clerk Betty Case updated the board on the new automated voting system, which involves scanning completed ballots into a computer. "The tallies were complete a half‑hour after the polls closed," Case said. "Then everybody went home."

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