COMMISSIONERS SPECIAL MEETING
The regular meeting of the Hancock County Commissioners was brought to order by Commissioner Clark at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday September 15, 2020. County Administrator Scott Adkins and Deputy County Administrator Rebekah Knowlton were also in attendance, as well as several Department Heads. The meeting link was made available to the public on the Hancock County website.
Adjustments to / approval of agenda: no adjustments made.
Leslie Ross from Downeast Restorative Justice asked when it was appropriate to comment on Dept. 17. The Commissioners agreed that attendees had the opportunity to make a statement now as well as comment under that specific item during the budget discussion. Ross read a statement submitted by ADA Heather Staples in support of funding for Restorative Justice. Milissa Lalonde, a board member of Downeast Restorative Justice, also made a statement in support of the program. Tara Young, a board member of Downeast Restorative Justice, made a statement in support of maintaining funding for Restorative Justice. Brett Ciccotelli submitted an email comment in support of Downeast Restorative Justice.
MOTION: Approve the minutes of the September 1, 2020 Commissioners’ Regular Meeting (Wombacher/Blasi 3-0, motion passed)
MOTION: have the Chair sign to engage Dunbar & Brawn Construction to complete the Renovate Terminal Restrooms Project (Wombacher/Blasi 3-0, motion passed)
MOTION: approve the Lease and Operating Rights Agreement between County of Hancock, Maine and Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company of Boston, LLC (Wombacher/Blasi 3-0, motion passed)
MOTION: approve the three year Town Contract with Tremont (Blasi/Wombacher 3-0, motion passed)
MOU with Sheriff’s Office, Maine State Police and Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force-
Sheriff Kane said this item was placed on the agenda to inform the Commission; they do not need to take action. Kane reported that Sergeant Tom Pickering, of the Maine State Police approached him with an idea of a partnership with the State Police allowing for that agency to assist with search warrants and seizing equipment as well as analyzing the equipment; the Sheriff’s Department will run investigations.
MOTION: Approval to promote Heather Sullivan to temp full time Corrections Officer effective September 19, 2020, at the rate of pay of $17.05 per hour with accrual benefit of holiday and sick time (Blasi/Wombacher 3-0, motion passed)
MOTION: Approval to promote Ernest Fitch to Corporal effective September 19, 2020; rate of pay based on current Union Contract (Wombacher/Blasi 3-0, motion passed)
MOTION: Approval to promote David McCarty to full time Corrections Officer effective September 19, 2020; rate of pay based on current Union Contract (Blasi/Wombacher 3-0, motion passed)
JA Richardson reported that the jail has secured, through the MAT grant, a nurse to cover Saturdays.
Close out RCC Expansion Project / Release Retainage-
Facilities Director Walls went through the site with the architect and identified small issues; those have been taken care of. The retainage of $16,133.57 needs to be released to the Penobscot Company. This figure represents the 5% that was withheld each billing as retainage.
MOTION: close out the RCC expansion project and release the retainage giving authorization for the Chairman to sign the release documents (Blasi/Wombacher 3-0, motion passed)
MOTION: use Community Benefit funds to pay the difference between the $350,000 that was originally authorized and the final figure of $404,910.77 (Blasi / motion fails for lack of second
CA Adkins explained that this figure includes only the Penobscot Company; we also have the Sealander and Witham contracts. The final figure has not been tallied at this point. Commissioners Clark and Wombacher agreed with the concept of paying the balance with Community Benefit funds, but wanted to wait for a final amount.
Appointment of Downeast Community Partners Board Members-
Mark Green of Downeast Community Partners explained that DCP is a merger between Washington-Hancock Community Agency and Child and Family Opportunities, which provided Head Start. We have always had this relationship with WHCA, but not CFO.
MOTION: reappoint John Thomas and John Harris to Downeast Community Partners Board (Blasi/Wombacher 3-0, motion passed)
Colebank v. Town of Sullivan / Order / Approval & signature-
MOTION: approve the County Commissioners’ order in the matter of the abatement between Colebank v. Town of Sullivan (Blasi/Wombacher 3-0, motion passed)
Commissioner Blasi amended the motion to include “County Commissioners’ order” rather than “court order”.
In an effort to accommodate those in attendance who wished to comment, the Commission agreed to discuss Department 17 at this point. Commissioner Clark referenced discussion earlier in the budget process involving efforts to not fund anything in Dept. 17 except the mandatory UMaine Cooperative Extension and the Hancock County Firefighters Association.
Dept. 17- Third Party
Eastern Maine Development Corporation request $9,500
HC Planning Commission request $16,400
Speaking for EMDC, Vicki Rusbult said their request is consistent with the request of the last several years. She referenced projects they are working on in Hancock County and said their primary focus is getting the new planner on board. She said they wanted to continue to work collaboratively with HCPC. Commissioner Blasi referenced a letter dated September 8 from Tammy Knight and said based on this he is not in favor of funding the planning commission. Rusbult said they do have some challenges but they could work collaboratively to help through the process. Jarod Farn-Guillette, Exec. Director of HCPC spoke about various agencies working with HCPC and said that they have taken many steps to ensure that they are financially above water. Jim Fisher also spoke about the services HCPC provides. Commissioner Blasi said he requested a financial report from HCPC and an explanation of how the matter was resolved and has not received that yet. Farn-Guillette said he has provided info and will continue to provide the information and reports needed. Commissioner Wombacher reminded the Commission that last year they approved funding for others in Dept. 17 to help augment the loss of HCPC, and proposed $9,000 for EMDC and $10,000 for HCPC. Commissioner Blasi said he supported $9,000 for EMDC and $0 for HCPC. Commissioner Clark again referenced the prior attempts to limit funding and expressed concern about supporting programs that were not county services and accommodating the towns that are relying on them to hold the county tax.
The Commissioners agreed to fund EMDC at $9,000.
After reviewing other departments Commissioners Clark and Wombacher agreed to fund HCPC at $10,000.
Special Children’s Friends request $5,300
The Commissioners agreed to fund Special Children’s Friends at $5,000
Downeast Restorative Justice request $15,000
The Commissioners agreed to fund Downeast Restorative Justice at $15,000
Soil & Water Conservation District request $20,000
The Commissioners agreed to fund Soil & Water Conservation District at $15,000
Next Step request $8,930
The Commissioners agreed to fund Next Step at $8,930
Univ. of Maine Extension request $67,200
The Commissioners agreed to fund Univ. of Maine Extension at $55,000
Hancock County Firefighter’s Association request $44,500
The Commissioners agreed to fund the Hancock County Firefighter’s Association at $44,000
Heart of Ellsworth request $25,000
As this is a new request for 2020, the Commissioners agreed not to fund this organization.
Frenchman Bay Conservancy request $20,000
As this is a new request for 2020, the Commissioners agreed not to fund this organization.
Abatement Hearing Murphy v. Town of Lamoine
Commissioner Clark opened the hearing.
MOTION: In light of the fact that the submission exceeded the statutory time limit, I move that we do not hear the appeal (Blasi/motion fails for lack of second
Commissioner Blasi referenced a letter from the Lamoine Board of Assessors that the applicant failed to meet the time limit to apply to the town. Commissioners Clark and Wombacher agreed that the Town appeared to hear the case and render a decision which allows for an appeal to the County Commissioners.
Commissioner Clark recognized that the applicant did meet the filing time requirements with the County. Applicant Beth Murphy was sworn in by Commissioner Clark. She said the property was appraised at $375,000, which is significantly less than the town has as a value. She said the east side of the State park has a base value of $300,000, while the west side has a base value of $400,000. Murphy said they have the same bay and view so she does not understand that discrepancy. Commissioner Blasi said the property cards that were submitted by the applicant did not appear comparable. Murphy said she attempted to gather properties that had roughly 200’ of waterfront.
Assessor Brian Thomas was sworn in by Commissioner Clark. Thomas explained the mass-assessing approach that the town used; they determine base lot values by using a professional appraiser. They don’t change values of individual properties based on a real estate appraisal. Thomas said they have a formula and apply it equally to all properties. There are variables that can be applied but they use a consistent formula; those values were applied to the Murphy property. Thomas said a property may sell for much more or much less but they do not alter their formula according to these sales. Jane Fowler was sworn in by Commissioner Clark. She explained that a factorization was done in 2005; the Town has been able to maintain values since then.
Commissioner Clark said this comes down to two issues for him. He can understand the applicant’s frustration when she gets an appraisal that is substantially lower than the town’s assessment but this is not a good basis for showing that the property owner was unfairly treated. Neighbors, at least to the east, have all been assessed using the same methodology. Given this, he has to make a determination that she was not treated differently than her neighbors and has failed to meet the requirement and the requisition for getting an abatement. Commissioner Blasi said he agreed, although it was curious that the town chose to hear the abatement request after the filing deadline was missed. Commissioner Wombacher said he didn’t see anything to suggest that the property is being treated unfairly.
MOTION: the abatement appeal of Beth Murphy is not granted based on the Commissioners determination that the property owner was treated fairly (Blasi/Wombacher 3-0, motion passed)
Hearing adjourned 10:39 a.m.
Budget workshop continued
Dept 10 – Sheriff
Lines 01-100 and 01-110: Sheriff Kane listed a 7% increase; Commissioner Blasi wanted keep non-contractual employees at 2020 levels; Commissioner Wombacher thought there should be a COLA and referenced the 3% applied to others. Commissioners Clark and Wombacher agreed to 3.5% increase to Sheriff’s and Chief Deputy’s wages.
Line 01-310 – the Commission agreed to $0 this line; line 20-005 vehicle repairs was increased to $46,000.
Commissioner Wombacher questioned the amount budgeted for line 01-500 Overtime; the Commissioners agreed to $68,500.
Line 07-100 Travel/Mileage: the Commissioners agreed to $6,000.
Line 70-175 Radios: The Commissioners agreed to cut this to $10,000, rather than $20,000.
Line 70-300 Vehicles Commissioner Clark suggested purchasing two out of the Town Contract cruiser account, one from Community Benefits, and budgeting one in the 2021 budget. Commissioner Blasi said he is opposed to using Community Benefits for this purpose; Commissioner Clark said this is the same concept as transferring Community Benefits funds at the end of the year to offset taxes. CA Adkins suggested adding $50,000 to revenues and $100,000 in expenditure line 70-300 Vehicles; the Commissioners agreed.
Dept 12 – Town Contracts
As the revenues and expenditures were in balance, the Commissioners were satisfied with the budget figures.
Dept 13 – Civil Process
The Commissioners agreed to these budget figures.
Dept 46 – Drug Task Force
Sheriff Kane said the only increases are contractual. The Commissioners agreed to these budget figures.
Dept 11 – Jail
There was no increase; the cap remains $1,965,609.
Dept 14 – Information Technology
Line 30-325 Commissioner Blasi did not want to contract with Sierra; IT Administrator Carter agreed the ultimate goal is to not contract with Sierra but we are not at that point yet. Commissioners Clark and Wombacher agreed to $19,500 for that line.
Dept. 30- Reserves
The Commissioners approved this amount.
MOTION: enter Executive Session under MRSA Title 1§405 6(D) for union contract negotiations (Clark /Wombacher 3-0
The public hearing for the 2021 Budget will be held at 6:00 pm on Wednesday, September 30.
MOTION Adjourn 12:29 pm (Wombacher/Clark 3-0, motion passed)
Deputy County Administrator