HERMON, Maine — A mass mailing critical of recent budget decisions sent out this week by two of the three candidates for Town Council seats in next week’s local elections have prompted current councilors to call a special meeting on Friday.
During the meeting, set for 6 p.m. in the public safety meeting room, the council will discuss a potential response to the mailing, according to an agenda issued Wednesday from the town office.
The mailing sent out by Don Pelletier and Anthony Reynolds, both of whom are former council members, began hitting residents’ mailboxes on Tuesday.
Pelletier and Reynolds are engaged in a three-way race for two seats. The other candidate is incumbent Councilor Anne Freeman, who is not involved in the mailing.
Reynolds said Wednesday that the mailing cost more than $1,000. He and Pelletier and several of their supporters picked up the tab for the mailing. The two said Wednesday that they believe the money was well spent.
“We’ve got people shook up,” Reynolds said.
“People are mad and I don’t blame them,” Pelletier said.
Town Manager Clinton Deschene, however, said that many of the statements made in the mailing are erroneous and that dollar figures used in the mailing don’t jibe with those he and the council are going by.
Pelletier and Reynolds say they have been analyzing the town budget for three months.
“We stand by them 100 percent,” Pelletier said. “They’re factual, right off the budget.”
In their mailing, Pelletier and Reynolds urge residents to vote down two articles on the June 16 annual town meeting warrant. One of them would split property tax payments into two payments in April and October. The other would authorize reserves for various town initiatives, including $160,000 for a rescue service contingency account.
Pelletier and Reynolds wrote that the tax payment change could hurt those who use income tax refunds to pay property taxes and would enable councilors to add unnecessary services and “mask a 20 percent tax hike over the next two years.”
Deschene, however, said Wednesday that the rational was to provide a more stable influx of revenue.
The rescue contingency was budgeted to cover potential costs associated with the town’s effort to determine how ambulance services will be delivered in the future. The issue has become the source of controversy between local officials, who have been considering moving to a fire-based emergency medical services model, and supporters of the Hermon Volunteer Rescue, which has been serving the town for more than 40 years.
The council’s decision earlier this year to implement a fire-based emergency medical services system remains on hold pending the recommendation of a local task force comprising residents and representatives of Hermon Rescue and the town’s Fire Department. Deschene said earlier that any expenditure from the contingency would require voter approval.
Also in the mailing, Pelletier and Reynolds aired several other criticisms about recent budget decisions. These include the proposed use of unrestricted net assets, formerly known as undesignated fund balance, to fund municipal operations, and raises authorized for the town manager and other town administrators.
The mailing also stated that the council is considering a three- or five-year contract for Deschene.
Deschene said that while that has been discussed, the council recently has opted not to go down that road at this point because of complaints made by residents during recent council meetings.