BREWER, Maine — Whether the city should require the next school superintendent to live in town and the date for a $5.4 million school bond referendum spurred discussion Tuesday night amongst City Council members.
Councilor Larry Doughty said he requested a public hearing on changing the city charter to require the school superintendent to be a Brewer resident after learning current Superintendent Daniel Lee is retiring next year.
Mayor Jerry Goss and Councilor Joseph Ferris both said they have talked to school board members who have voiced concern that the proposed requirement would tie their hands when it comes to hiring Lee’s replacement.
“They think it will limit their scope of applicants,” Ferris said.
He said he doesn’t oppose having the public hearing but “I don’t know I’d support it.”
Adding a stipulation that would allow the person hired as the next superintendent to move into Brewer within the first two or three years of their employment was suggested by Goss and supported by Doughty.
“I agree with that,” Doughty said. “I think one way or the other it’s going to go before the voters.”
Charter amendments require voter approval and Doughty suggested that a citizens’ petition may be forthcoming if councilors don’t support a referendum.
The second school department subject that caused discussion was brought forth by Councilor Arthur “Archie” Verow, who expressed concerns about a Sept. 18 school bond referendum.
The Department of Education has approved a $5.4 million Quality School Construction bond for Brewer High School, and acceptance of the money must be approved by residents in a local referendum.
“Why not at the June primary or November election?” Verow asked. “I’m very hesitant to call voters out for three elections in one year.”
The mayor addressed the question by explaining that residents must approve accepting the funds by the end of the year or risk losing the bond funding.
“June will not allow them enough time to have the necessary materials ready to make the public aware” of what the funding would be used for, Goss said. “Waiting to November puts it too close to the drop-dead date.”
The bond vote is critical to the future of Brewer High School, which would be modernized with the funding, “without any additional costs to the budget,” the mayor said.
“We’re under the gun,” Doughty said.
Verow voted against the resolve to set the school referendum date.
“I’m not opposed to the project, I’m just opposed to the election date,” he said.
During the meeting, the council also:
- Held an honorary swearing in ceremony for two police officers and one firefighter who have joined the city ranks over the last year. Officer Kristie Bouchard and firefighter Jason Grosse were sworn in by City Clerk Howard Kroll. Officer Eduardo Benjamin is another new officer but was unable to attend the meeting.
- Heard yearly updates about calls for service and upgrades from Fire Chief Gary Parent and Police Chief Perry Antone. Both gave accolades to their employees and said call volumes are up.
- Proclaimed March 12-18 as MS awareness week.
- Accepted donations from Carol Reynolds and Charles and Eleanor Fisher for the police department and another $3,000 from an anonymous donor to support the department’s canine program.
- Endorsed a program to identify and record historic buildings in the city done in partnership with the Brewer Historical Society.