Brewer council discusses drug clinic, RSU 15

Posted Jan. 13, 2009, at 10:58 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — City councilors enacted a second six-month moratorium on methadone clinics with little debate Tuesday night, but discussed at length the proposed school consolidation residents will vote on later this month.

After City Councilor Manley DeBeck said he was very concerned about the proposed Regional School Unit 15, designed to consolidate Brewer and four neighboring school districts, he summed up his thoughts in one sentence.

“It’s like stuffing 10 pounds of manure in a 5-pound bag,” he said. “It isn’t going to work and it stinks.”

Brewer, Dedham, Orrington, SAD 63 and CSD 8 have worked for 1½ years to create RSU 15 under the state’s new school consolidation law. Residents in the 10 communities will vote Jan. 27 in a thumbs-up or thumbs-down referendum about joining the new consolidated school district.

City Councilor Joseph Ferris said he has always been a big supporter of consolidation, but that the plan before voters is “not good for our kids” or taxpayers.

“I’m certainly going to vote against this,” he said. “I believe in consolidation, but this is not the way. I’m going to urge our taxpayers to vote against it.”

The problem is Brewer teachers and staffers make a lot more than their neighboring counterparts, and projected costs for aligning salaries is $2.74 million over the first three years, the draft plan states.

Brewer would be responsible for 43.9 percent of the new district costs, after the state pitches in its subsidy.

If voters reject the proposal, each community will be assessed a penalty in the form of reduced state funding, which in Brewer’s case would amount to about $244,000.

DeBeck said the penalty is outrageous, but it’s better than 44 percent of nearly $2.8 million or roughly $1.2 million for aligning salaries districtwide.

“Give us some latitude to get something else done,” he said. “We have [to pay] a bigger chunk, and our students don’t have school choice.”

Councilor Larry Doughty said, “It’s a no-brainer.”

During the time set aside for legislative updates, newly elected state Rep. Michael Celli said he planned to co-sponsor a bill to repeal the school consolidation law, and state Sen. Richard Rosen said, “I’m inclined to vote for the repeal.” Celli said if the repeal effort fails, he would work on amendments to the existing law.

When it came time to discuss a second moratorium on methadone clinics, a single question over wording was raised before councilors enacted a second 180-day ban. The moratorium now will last until mid-August.

City staffers who sit on the methadone treatment facilities ordinance committee are reviewing the city’s land use code to see whether regulations need to be added concerning where clinics may locate, what size they can be and how they will be run.

“We’re planning to go before the planning board in February,” with some possible changes, city solicitor and committee member Joel Dearborn said.

During the Jan. 27 school consolidation referendum vote, residents also will select someone to fill a one-year City Council vacancy created when Celli was elected to the state House of Representatives and resigned his City Council post.

Deborah Deane, Asa Honey and Gail Kelly, a former councilor and mayor, are running for the empty seat.

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