VEAZIE, Maine — Town councilors this week dealt with a series of matters related to the departure of two of their top local officials.
One of those officials was Town Manager Bill Reed, who was fired a month ago after 19 years on the job, an action that took place during a meeting that was slated to serve as his job performance review.
Councilors instead went into executive session to discuss their “rights and responsibilities in regards to a personnel matter,” Chairman Joe Friedman said at the time. When they returned about 30 minutes later, they moved to “terminate” Reed, with Friedman and councilors David King and Brian Perkins in favor. Councilor Tammy Olson abstained and Councilor Jon Parker voted against the motion.
The town manager position has been posted and advertised, despite the lack of an official vote to that end. In the meantime, the council has hired former Holden Town Manager Larry Varisco to serve as acting manager.
During their meeting on Tuesday night, the councilors signed off on their separation agreement with Reed in a 4-1 vote, with Parker casting the sole opposing vote.
Though the details of the agreement were not disclosed during the meeting, Reed said Wednesday that despite some initial resistance, the council has agreed to divide his severance pay of $100,000 into two payments.
Reed said it is his understanding that he will receive $25,000 this month and the balance in January of next year. He said he was opposed to a lump sum payment because of the effect that would have had on his income taxes had it been paid this year.
In a matter relating to the loss of Veazie’s longtime tax assessor, Allan Thomas, the councilors were briefed on what it will take to bring the town’s property tax cards up to date by Bangor Assessor Ben Birch.
Birch and other Bangor employees are handling Veazie’s assessing needs on an interim basis. Under the agreement, Veazie will pay Bangor $17,000 per year for getting property tax bills out on time.
Thomas had been the town’s assessor for more than two decades when town councilors decided not to appoint him. Thomas filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the town, which was settled in July when he agreed to accept a $10,500 settlement.
Birch said that about 400 of the town’s nearly 900 property valuations are in need of documentation.
“Without having accurate and complete building data, these valuations are questionable. I do not know how the valuations came about nor could I defend them if called upon to do so,” he said in a written report to councilors.
Given that, a town-wide revaluation may be in order, a project outside of parameters of the Bangor-Veazie agreement and one that Bangor does not have the assessing staff to take on.
In other business, Police Chief Mark Leonard recognized Sgt. Paul Haslam for his handling of an August medical crisis involving a State Street resident who had attempted suicide.
Haslam’s quick action not only saved the victim’s life but prevented the brain damage that likely would have resulted from a lack of oxygen, he said in presenting the officer a letter of commendation and plaque.
Leonard said Haslam was the first public safety official on the scene. When he arrived, the victim had no pulse, was not breathing and was foaming from the mouth and nose. Haslam administered two life-saving breaths, enabling the patient to start breathing on their own.