Brewer withdraws support for I-395-Route 9 connector, sends superintendent residency question to voters
BREWER, Maine — Shortly after unanimously voting to withdraw support for a proposed Interstate 395-Route 9 connector, city councilors held a lengthy and slightly heated discussion about requiring future school superintendents to live in town.
The connector route vote was easy because City Council members are frustrated with the Maine Department of Transportation’s recent decision to designate a new preferred route without first consulting city or area town leaders.
The Brewer-Holden-Eddington connector route is designed to ease traffic between Canadian Maritime Provinces and the federal highway system and has been in the planning stage since before 2000. Brewer and Eddington leaders learned in January that the DOT had selected a new preferred I-395-Route 9 connector route without consulting them.
“The city has gone on record on numerous occasions about the need to take into account local, regional and statewide transportation considerations in selecting a final route for this important transportation connector,” Mayor Jerry Goss said, reading from the resolve. “Brewer requests and urges the MDOT to use a more open and transparent process when making decisions that impact multiple municipalities, their governing bodies and their citizens.”
Councilor Joseph Ferris, and others, voiced support for the resolve.
“I think it’s very important that we at least adopt this resolve to show our utter dismay,” he said. “Hopefully, it will jog some response with the DOT.”
Applause broke out after councilors voted to withdraw support for the connector project and support the “no build” option.
When it came time to discuss whether to require future school superintendents to live in town, the council was split, with Goss and Ferris voting in line with the local school board, who last week voted unanimously to not support the change.
“I am not in favor of us telling the school department how to do their job,” Ferris said.
Goss, who spent years as the Brewer High School principal, said he worked under four different superintendents and “none lived in Brewer and [all] bled orange and black,” referring to the school’s colors.
City leaders, led by Councilor Larry Doughty, first discussed the matter last month and held a public hearing during Tuesday’s meeting to gather comments about holding a referendum to change the city charter and require the school superintendent to be a Brewer resident.
School board members David Austin and Janet McIntosh and a resident spoke at length against making the move.
“We are looking for the best possible candidate and a residency requirement would just limit our pool,” McIntosh said.
Under the proposed change, “any Superintendent of Schools contract beginning July 1, 2013, and thereafter” would require the superintendent to “become a resident of the City of Brewer within one year after his or her employment begins,” the notice states.
The original order was amended Tuesday to allow future superintendents up to three years to move into town after signing a contract.
Current superintendent Daniel Lee is retiring next year. Residents changed the charter requiring the town manager to live within city limits during 2002.
“It’s a difficult decision. It’s a difficult process,” City Councilor Kevin O’Connell said. “They are the highest paid individual in the city of Brewer.”
A “strongly worded” exchange among Ferris, Goss, O’Connell and Doughty occurred when Doughty questioned Ferris and Goss about whether they trusted voting residents. It ended when O’Connell called for the question, which stopped the discussion and forced an immediate vote. The final 3-2 vote was to let voters decide.
Councilors still have to select when to hold the local referendum — at the June election, the September special election or the November presidential election.