COMMISSIONERS REGULAR MEETING
The regular meeting of the Hancock County Commissioners was brought to order by Commissioner Clark at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday November 3, 2020. Commissioner Blasi, Commissioner Wombacher, County Administrator Scott Adkins and Deputy County Administrator Rebekah Knowlton were also in attendance, as well as several Department Heads. Due to Covid-19 social distancing restrictions, the meeting was held remotely via Zoom. The meeting link was made available to the public on the Hancock County website.
Adjustments to / approval of agenda: none
Public Comment: none
MOTION: Approve the minutes of the October 20, 2020 Commissioners’ Special Meeting (Wombacher/Blasi 3-0, motion passed)
MOTION: authorize the District Attorney to advertise for the position of Legal Secretary (Wombacher/Blasi 3-0, motion passed)
The employee currently holding this position is on the November 3rd ballot and will vacate the position if she wins the election. Once assured of the outcome, DA Foster will begin advertising in-house and on Indeed.com.
Airport Manager Muise updated the Commission with his monthly report. Biplane Rides over Atlanta asset sales to Maine Coastal Flight have been completed. Cape Air and Eastport are partnering together for possible service to Boston; this would be through Bar Harbor. Muise spoke with different organization about solar. Muise updated the Commissioners on various Airport Improvement Projects. The drain project is complete although there is some excess material that needs to be removed. The lighting project is now complete after roughly 2.5 years. The terminal building project may start next week.
Airport Manager Muise said he is working on an RFP for private hangar space; there are 2 lots that could be used as private hangar lots.
MOTION: approve the lease assignment from BiPlane Rides over Atlanta to Maine Coastal Flight Center of Parcel known as P11 and approval for Chairman to sign (Wombacher/Blasi 3-0, motion passed)
MOTION: Registrar of Deeds is approved to advertise to fill a vacant full time clerk position (Blasi/Wombacher 3-0, motion passed)
MOTION: renew the On Premise Liquor License for Airline Snack Bar (Blasi/Wombacher 3-0, motion passed)
MOTION: approve the proposed 2021-2022 UT Budget in the taxable assessment amount of $208,994 (Wombacher/Blasi 3-0, motion passed)
UT Supervisor Billings reported that this budget contains a decrease in property tax assessment of 12%. The budget now goes to the State legislature for final approval.
Airline Snack Bar / discussion regarding opting in for marijuana retail sales in T22MD-
UT Supervisor Billings said the Commissioners need to vote to opt in, either the UT county-wide or a specific UT. Billings said he did not think this was a good fit for the UT, simply because of the distance from the Sheriff’s Department. The Commission discussed holding a public hearing on the issue. There was some discussion on the process, whether to opt in all the UT or individually.
MOTION: the Commissioners hold a public hearing to opt in for all unorganized townships (Blasi/Wombacher 2-1, Clark opposed, motion passed)
Commissioner Clark said he would not vote in favor, not because he did not want public input, but because he agreed with UT Supervisor Billings and this would put additional burden on law enforcement and public safety. Commissioner Blasi referenced the four separate permissions for use; Billings said it was up to the Commissioners to opt in for each one.
The Commissioners agreed to hold the public hearing the first meeting in December at 10 a.m.
MOTION: approval for pay rate of all part time Corrections Officers to be moved to step 9A on the Union wage scale (Wombacher/Blasi 3-0, motion passed)
MOTION: approval to hire Rebecca Gorfin of Surry as part time corrections officer effective November 7, 2020 at the part time rate of pay with no benefits, not to exceed 29 hours per week (Blasi/Wombacher 3-0, motion passed)
Facilities Director Dennis Walls updated the Commission with his monthly report.
The Commissioners reviewed two contracts for snow removal from RF Jordan. One referenced payment per event while the other referenced a contract price of $5,000. Commissioner Clark asked for clarification regarding the contract; he said he was under the impression that we are in a multi-year agreement with Jordan’s. Director Walls said yes, that this is the final year of a multi-year agreement and that RF Jordan changed the terms, which is the reason for this discussion. Commissioner Blasi asked about the termination terms; Walls said we could terminate based on the change in billing but the timing is such that we would be changing horses mid-race. Commissioner Clark said since this is a change to our agreement with them for a three year service there was no need to go out to bid. Commissioner Wombacher said we would need to go out to bid next year, beginning in August.
MOTION: enter into an agreement for the 2021 snow season for snow removal with RF Jordan in the amount of $5,000 (Clark/Wombacher 2-1, Blasi opposed, motion passed)
Commissioner Blasi preferred the per-event scenario.
The cost will be split between the jail and the maintenance department.
Use of temp service for housekeeping-
Facilities Director Walls suggested using Manpower service as a tool to get the job done when circumstances cause our own staff to be absent. Any workers through Manpower will not be County employees, they are employees of Manpower and will be appropriately vetted. Walls said it is very difficult to find applicants for the part time Maintenance positions. The Commissioners agreed that Manpower services should be used as little as possible. Facilities Director Walls agreed to update the Commissioners periodically on how often and why Manpower services are being used.
MOTION: permit the Maintenance Director to enter into an agreement with Manpower for periodic part time workers (Clark/Wombacher 3-0, motion passed)
Commissioner Blasi wanted to be sure any workers from Manpower adhere to Covid-19 precautions and policies; Walls agreed.
CA Adkins explained the basics of the electrostatic cleaning machine that was recently used by Penobscot Cleaners to professionally clean portions of the Courthouse and Airport after a potential Covid-19 exposure. He suggested the County purchase one, not simply for Covid-19 but for extra cleaning during flu season, cleaning the interior of cruisers, and cleaning portions of the jail when circumstances warrant a professional cleaning, among other uses.
MOTION: the Maintenance Director be permitted to purchase one of these units and the funds be taken from Community Benefits (Clark/Wombacher 3-0, motion passed)
Request from US Board on Geographic Names for Commission input regarding proposed name change of the Negro Island in the Bagaduce River in the Town of Castine-
Commissioner Clark suggested allowing local residents to have the majority of comments with regards to whether the name should be changed. Matthew O’Donnell, representing the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, and Caleb Jackson, representing Maine Coast Heritage Trust, both agreed that involving stakeholders in the process was crucial.
MOTION: take no position on the recommendation for Negro Island in the Town of Castine (Clark/Wombacher1-2, Blasi and Wombacher opposed, motion failed)
Commissioner Blasi said he was not in favor of the Commissioners not taking a position but thought that it was expedient to send the process back to the town. The Commissioners agreed to take no action and allow local discussion to continue.
Deliberations / Abatement Appeal Knowlton v. Town of Sullivan-
Commissioner Clark said the following:
The scope of the Commissioners review is limited to whether or not the applicant’s property was over-assessed and if so, what the abatement should be. The Maine law court has given the municipalities great leeway in establishing the methodology of determining the assessed value and it’s beyond the authority of the Commissioners to question the town’s assessment standards. But Maine law and our Maine Constitution impose basic requirements on the towns so that they will be apportioned and assessed equally. But the Maine Constitution also imposes a limitation that we as Commissioners must recognize that Title IX, Section 9 precludes us from granting an abatement that would result in an unequal assessment. The point is that it is improper to have an unequal assessment but it’s also improper under our Constitution for us to grant an abatement that would result in an unequal assessment. Although the applicant has repeatedly emphasized their contention that the assessed value woefully exceeds the true value, despite a direct question to their attorney, no information was presented to show conclusively that the applicants are being treated unfairly when compared to others in their tax neighborhood. We, as arbitrators, must balance our decision on this matter of an alleged assessed value compared to true value against any potential for unfair treatment of the applicant when compared to their neighbors. Although we may want to dismiss the value of the purchase price because it was a foreclosure sale and not at “arm’s length”, I can’t help taking pause that an appraisal done for the applicant and completed without knowing it would be used later for an abatement request that still finds a value of over $300,000 less than the assessment. But the applicant has focused solely on the true value vs. the assessed value which by all accounts is appropriate but the Maine Law Court states that there must be “equality in TAX treatment” of similarly valued properties. Further the court says that “the assessment must represent an equal burden of TAXATION”. And so for us, although we may take pause at the possibility that the assessed value substantially exceeds the true value, but we must also recognize that by granting an abatement, we may violate the Constitution by creating an unequal assessment. Now having said this, I have a personal message for the Town of Sullivan. If the town does not do a town wide revaluation sometime soon or make an adjustment to this tax neighborhood’s rate and we continue to get these dramatic disparities between an appraisal and the assessment, you may find the county and/or the Superior Court start granting abatement requests.
Commissioner Blasi said comparable sales the Knowltons provided were outside the neighborhood of the subject property. The property tax cards provided were from 2006. Sullivan should be reevaluated. The two appeals we’ve heard give me the impression that this is needed.
Commissioner Wombacher said his feelings echo the other Commissioners; all the assessments were fair when compared to neighboring properties. He agreed that the Town should be encouraged to do a revaluation and that the Commissioners have spent more time than they should on hearing abatement requests involving the Town of Sullivan.
MOTION: we do not grant an abatement in the Sullivan vs. Knowlton matter because the applicant has failed to show that they were unequally treated (Clark/Wombacher 3-0, motion passed)
Commissioner Clark informed applicant Deborah Knowlton that she could appeal to Superior Court if she wished.
The Commissioners discussed the process for finalizing the budget. Commissioner Blasi did not want to discuss Department 17 because the agenda did not specify that votes would be taken. Commissioner Clark said he had no intention of reducing the BAC’s recommendations in Dept. 17. Commissioner Wombacher agreed, he did not want to alter what the BAC recommended.
MOTION: assess the municipalities for the Commissioners 2021 budget in the amount of $6,628,882, predicated upon transferring $50,000 from Community Benefits into the 2021 budget (Clark/Wombacher 2-1, Blasi opposed, motion passed)
RCC Director Conary updated the Commission with his monthly report. He reported that he may need to overdraw the equipment line by roughly $1,500 due to the unexpected upgrade of the recording server. The Commissioners agreed by general consensus to allow that.
MOTION: approve the October warrant memo as presented by the Treasurer (Wombacher/Clark 3-0, motion passed)
The Treasurer’s memo listed the following:
October GF, Airport, and Jail Payroll Warrants #20-39, #20-40, #20-41, #20-42, and #20-43 in the aggregate amount of $502,412.49;
October GF, Airport, and Jail Expense Warrants #20-55, #20-56, #20-57, #20-58, #20-59, and #20-60 in the aggregate amount of $2,744,081.57;
October UT Payroll Warrants #21-13, #21-14, #21-15, #21-16, and #21-17 in the aggregate of $1,372.55;
October UT Expense Warrants #21-7 and #21-8 in the aggregate of $5,469.85
MOTION: authorize the Treasurer to go out to bid for banking services (Clark/Wombacher 2-0, motion passed, Commissioner Blasi did not vote)
Acadia Benefits 2021 contract
MOTION: approve the contract with Acadia Benefits for the 2021 calendar year (Clark/Wombacher 3-0, motion passed)
Next meeting November 17, 2020.
MOTION: to adjourn 11:14 a.m. (Wombacher/Blasi 3-0, motion passed)
Deputy County Administrator