COMMISSIONER AGENDAS & MINUTES
COMMISSIONERS SPECIAL MEETING
The special meeting of the Hancock County Commissioners was brought to order by Commissioner Blasi at 8:30 am on Tuesday, March 20, 2018 in the conference room of the County courthouse located in Ellsworth, ME with Commissioners Brown and Clark in attendance.
Adjustments to / approval of agenda:
MOTION: take sheriff and jail out of order (Clark/Brown 3-0, motion passed)
Public Comment: none
MOTION: authorize the sheriff to put forfeiture items out to bid (Clark/Brown 3-0, motion passed)
Sheriff Kane said he will have bids ready for approval at the April meeting.
Discussion regarding school resource officers: Sheriff Kane reported that two school districts have expressed concern about school safety, and wanted to know if the commission would support providing school resource officers. There was some discussion on the need to hire more officers to fill those positions, and what that would look like. Commissioner Brown said he didn’t know how we would go about adding funding for something like that- it may be cost prohibitive and the districts may have to share some of those costs. Commissioner Brown said he would like to hear more about it. Commissioner Blasi said his first reaction is that the county should not do this. Commissioner Clark asked about potential cost savings if overtime costs could be avoided by using another officer during the summer months when vacation time was heavily used. Sheriff Kane said he would do that analysis. Commissioner Clark said he was not opposed to the idea, and ways to fund it should continue to be looked at. Commissioner Brown said he would like to know how the towns feel about it. Commissioner Clark said it was important at this time to understand how much the school districts are willing to contribute.
Replacement of the Fire Panel discussion: Facilities Director Dennis Walls explained when the fire alarm goes off the system sends an electrical signal to shut down the air vents. New sensors that were replaced recently required a programming change to send the signal to the relay; the tech said that if he goes in and enters the code there is a 20% chance that the system would crash, and would not be able to recover. The fix is to replace the computer module in the panel. The field tech said the cost would be $20,000. Walls said he would have a firm quote as soon as possible. Walls said the new components are compatible, but require a program change, and if the board that we now have is crashed, they do not have the components to repair it. The safety risk is that the signal to the air handler to shut the motors down is not working, so a temporary protocol is in place to shut it down manually. Jail Administrator Richardson said this emergency protocol also shuts power down in other areas. Commissioner Clark questioned how this would be paid for. Commissioner Blasi suggested using contingency. Commissioner Brown said to over expend the account line, that this was a true cost to the jail. The commission agreed that this project had to be done, regardless of the cost. Jail Administrator Richardson and Director Walls were directed to fix the problem and report back to the commission. Walls said it would be approximately 3 weeks.
MOTION: authorize maintenance and jail to go ahead with fixing the alarm problem at the jail (Brown/Clark 3-0, motion passed)
Commissioner Brown said anything we do with fire protection and prevention should be in compliance with local ordinances. Commissioner Clark would like to see this posted to the fire alarm line, Commissioners Brown and Blasi agreed.
Airport Lease with Civil Air Patrol- Airport Manager Brad Madeira said he has not received correspondence from CAP, although he sent them an updated draft lease agreement after the last commissioners’ meeting. Commissioner Blasi said he would like to see a timeline on this. Commissioner Clark said he would like Madeira to follow up with due diligence and as much consideration as possible.
Finalize Airport Reserve Accounting- Manager Madeira submitted a summary sheet and a detail sheet on the reserve account proposal. This would reduce the undesignated fund balance to approximately $250,000.
MOTION: approve the Airport Manager’s recommendations for the airport reserve account proposal (Brown/Clark 3-0, motion passed)
MOTION: approval of the NOTICE TO PROCEED with Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc. (Brown/Blasi 3-0, motion passed)
This involves continued work on the “Replace Airfield Lighting Project” to include design and preparation of the bid documents.
Health Insurance – spousal coverage
CA Adkins said this issue goes back to what the policy is and how it has been implemented in the past. He said after previous discussions, it appears that eligibility was not intended to be considered; historically that has never been considered. Commissioner Clark said in this particular case the spouse’s employer offered group health insurance. The spouse did not take it. When she became the spouse of our employee, she was not eligible for insurance (until the next open enrollment) through her employer, therefore was eligible for coverage through the county. CA Adkins said that the caveat to that was that the law allows a life-changing event, such as a marriage, the opportunity to report to your employer and make that request. Commissioner Clark said on the day of the hearing, the commission did not know that to be the case, but thought everyone could agree now that during the next open enrollment period the spouse has the opportunity to get coverage through her employer. Commissioner Clark said we have the opportunity to tell the employee to direct the spouse when the open enrollment period comes up, that the spouse must apply for that. CA Adkins said the opinion from legal was consistent with that, and it would also be his recommendation, as that would bring this back to within policy. Commissioner Brown said the intent of original policy was that if the spouse’s employer provided coverage, they would not be eligible for county coverage. He said he was not present at the meeting this decision was made, and it was important for the record to reflect the sequence of events. CA Adkins said part of the concern was how to clarify this for future events. Commissioner Clark did not think action needed to be taken today; we simply notify the employee that when the open enrollment period comes around for the spouse, the spouse becomes ineligible for county coverage, as would be the case for any other employee’s spouse who became ineligible for county coverage. Commissioner Clark said he maintains that a mistake was not made, that they simply gave coverage for a spouse who was ineligible for their employer’s coverage. Commissioner Blasi suggested a memo be sent annually to employees regarding spousal coverage. Commissioner Clark suggested that the policy be amended to make it perfectly clear that if an employee’s spouse who is receiving county coverage becomes eligible for coverage under the spouse’s employer, the employee must notify the county, and understand that the spouse becomes ineligible for county coverage. Commissioner Brown said he thought the policy was fine, but guidance could be given with examples.
MOTION: that the County Administrator be directed to craft an amendment to this policy that makes it clear that a spouse who has county coverage and becomes employed by an employer who provides health insurance coverage that the spouse is no longer eligible for county coverage, and that this information be distributed in the annual notification (Clark/Blasi 3-0, motion passed)
Commissioner Brown wanted recommendations from our health insurance broker and our attorney. Commissioner Clark said under his motion the County Administrator was free to consult with whoever to make sure this is done appropriately.
Sierra Communications / IT Support Services Contract / Approval & Signatures-
The contract covers a period of 10 months, from March 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018. If during that time, the county desires to terminate, a 60 day notice is required.
MOTION: to approve the contract with Sierra Communications (Brown/Blasi 3-0, motion passed)
At this point in the meeting Chair Blasi recognized Corrections Officer Troy Frye. Officer Frye asked the commission for clarification regarding his spouse’s health insurance coverage. He said he understood that she would continue to be covered through open enrollment; the commission indicated that his understanding was correct.
RCC / 42 hr Vacation / Employee Cashout / Side Letter with Union / Approval & Signatures:
MOTION: to approve and for the chairman to sign the side agreement between Hancock County Commissioners and Teamsters Local Union No. 340 Hancock County Regional Communications Center regarding vacation time cash out (Brown/Blasi 3-0 motion passed)
Commissioner Brown said an important part of the contract is the date that it ends.
Consideration of contracts for appointed/exempt employees- Commissioner Clark said it was difficult to negotiate a contract with an employee who is currently employed. Commissioner Brown said he was looking to negotiate with the expectation of what the individual may want in this contract; he wasn’t trying to set pay, but give them an expectation of what they may expect. Commissioners Blasi and Brown agreed this was only related to dept head appointed exempt employees. Commissioner Blasi said all contracts that he would sign need to have no-cause clauses, meaning that employment may be terminated with no cause. Commissioner Clark said that may be in violation of 30-A. Commissioner Blasi referenced that the County Administrator’s contract has a no cause clause. Commissioner Blasi suggested formulating this for any new dept head appointed exempt hires. Commissioner Clark said he did not have a problem with that. CA Adkins said he would follow the progress on the salary survey being conducted by the county administrator’s group, and would bring that back to the commission, and said there would be other considerations as well. Commissioner Brown said merit could not be used as a factor for elected officials; that the commission had no control over their performance. Commissioner Clark said the performance of elected officials could be used as a basis for compensation. The topic of contracts for exempt employees will be addressed in a future meeting.
Break 10:19 am
10:30 a.m. John Messer/Stephen Peck v. Town of Dedham tax abatement appeal hearing
The Commission, CA Adkins, Deputy CA Knowlton, John Messer and Michelle Begin (representing the Town of Dedham) were present.
Michelle Begin, Administrative Assistant for Town of Dedham, and John Messer were both sworn in by Chair Blasi.
Mr. Messer was invited to present. He said he purchased his property about 11 years ago. Mr. Messer said that in his last letter to the Town of Dedham, Mr. Dickey was missing the point about real life values, although not assessed values. Mr. Messer said fair market values had declined since he purchased his property. He referenced various properties that he felt compared to his, many of them in tree growth. He said he felt that Mr. Dickey was dismissive of fair market value. Mr. Messer said he believed his property to be worth half of what the town had assessed as its value.
Commissioner Brown asked if Mr. Messer had his property assessed by an independent appraiser. He responded that he would not have felt that he would have reason to. Commissioner Clark asked Mr. Messer if Mr. Dickey assessed his property in a different manner than he assessed everyone else. Mr. Messer said he did not think that was the issue, but that the issue gets clouded with the fact that the vast majority of the property on the pond is in tree growth, and it was difficult to compare the assessments. Commissioner Clark asked Mr. Messer if it was a fair statement to say that Mr. Dickey was assessing him in the same manner he is assessing everyone else on Goose Pond. Mr. Messer replied “taking into account the tree growth issue, I’ll answer yes”. There was some discussion on the effect that property in tree growth has on property that is not in tree growth.
Michelle Begin explained that Mr. Dickey was not able to be present, and she was representing the Town of Dedham. She referenced the comparison of Goose Pond to Philips Lake. She explained the methodology used to determine the base value of an acre on each. She said all lots around Goose Pond were assessed the same, although many were in tree growth. Commissioner Blasi asked where the statute that mandates using assessed value was that Mr. Dickey seemed to be leaning on. Ms. Begin said she did not know, but explained her understanding of how all the properties were assessed. Commissioner Brown asked if all the properties were assessed using the same methodology and the same factors. Ms. Begin said they looked at the sales throughout town to determine where their assessed value lies when compared with fair market. Commissioner Clark observed that in the valuation reports the base lot in the frontage all has the same price per unit. Commissioner Blasi asked for closing statements. Ms. Begin said that the valuation reports show that the properties around Goose Pond are assessed the same; that is what they are responsible for and that is how they make sure they are assessing taxes fairly. Mr. Messer thanked all involved for the opportunity to present. He said he believes strongly that one should pay their fair share of taxes, and his argument has been that Goose Pond requires a second look for non- tree growth properties based on the facts.
Commissioner Blasi said that the commission has 60 days to deliberate the matter; if the parties are not satisfied with the determination, they may appeal to superior court. He then closed the hearing.
At this point the commission, along with CA Adkins, Deputy CA Knowlton, and Jennifer Osborne of the Ellsworth American visited the jail.
This portion of the meeting was not recorded.
Meeting adjourned, 12:36 pm
Deputy County Administrator