Sangerville selectmen tighten board policy, work to improve committee functions

Posted April 13, 2011, at 6:07 p.m.
Last modified April 13, 2011, at 6:51 p.m.

SANGERVILLE, Maine — Before selectmen appointed the town’s budget committee Tuesday for coming budget work, two town officials criticized the actions some of those same committee members have taken in the past.

Board Chairman Lance Burgess said he was more than upset at what he called the inappropriate activities of some of the committee members in recent months. If the committee makes a decision to do something, even if the vote is not unanimous, then all committee members should stand behind that decision, he said.

Town Manager Michelle Dumoulin also faulted some members of the committee, who, she said, voted to approve the proposed budget at the budget meeting, then turned around and gathered as a group and proposed other figures that were presented at the town meeting. She said that was not in the best interests of the town.

‘’The select board and committees pretty much follow the same regulations when it comes to holding secret meetings,’’ Burgess said. ‘’And for several members of a committee to meet without notice to the rest of the committee or the public, I believe is not only inappropriate but illegal.’’

To better educate the committees, the board plans to ask the Maine Municipal Association to hold a training session in town on the roles, functions and authority of the committees.

The members of the budget committee that attended Tuesday’s meeting did not address the comments.

On the composition of the road committee,  Dumoulin said the MMA has advised the town that it should avoid the appointment of residents who have a vested interest in road issues such as contractors and people who are vocal about the upkeep of their roads.

Selectmen also discussed curtailing public participation at board meetings and voted to limit the open session to 30 minutes.

Burgess said the board no longer would accept written statements to be read at its meetings. The public must submit written statements before they are publicly aired at board meetings to allow the board time to digest their content. “’This isn’t a forum to make political statements,’’ he said. He said the board or the town manager would respond to the statements later.

Burgess’ comment about prohibiting written statements from being read aloud before the board prompted Brent Randall, a newly elected selectman, to ask if the board planned to vote on it or whether it previously had discussed it.

‘’No, we haven’t discussed it. That’s the way we’re going to do it,’’ Burgess replied.

Resident Toby Hall said he sometimes jots down notes and uses those when he addresses the board.

Burgess replied that notes are different from a two-page letter, which is overwhelming to the board.

Randall disagreed with the new ruling. He said some people have trouble speaking before crowds and need to have their statements written down to present them.

‘’It’s a delicate situation,’’ Selectman Tom Caron said. ’‘I don’t want to tie the meeting up with something that someone’s going to take a half-hour to say, but I don’t want to inhibit someone’s First Amendments rights of being able to get up and say something, too.’’

In response to a suggestion that the board isn’t obligated to answer any questions from the public at board meetings, resident Ron Smith asked: ‘’Where do you get your questions answered?’’  A lot of times it’s just a legitimate question, it’s not causing debate, but if you need a clarification on something or if things have been going on in town, this should be the place to ask the question. If you can’t ask a question, why even have an open forum?’’  

Dumoulin said those questions need to be asked of her and she would respond to them.

In an unrelated matter, selectmen were updated on a break-in at the town garage. Dumoulin said a public works employee filled the wood stove in the garage at 9:30 a.m. March 26 and when he returned at 7 a.m. the next day, a bay door was open. The employee notified police.

Dumoulin said it appeared nothing had been stolen from the garage, and the equipment appeared to have been untouched.

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