HAMPDEN, Maine — Much of the discussion during Monday night’s 100-minute Town Council meeting centered on Town Manager Susan Lessard’s dual status as a town and state official.
The talk focused on questions regarding Lessard’s status as Hampden’s town manager and chairwoman of Maine’s Board of Environmental Protection and the inherent requirement that she attend all board meetings, between 15 and 20 per year.
Councilor Kristen Hornbrook said she had received queries from residents regarding Lessard’s absence from the town office and lack of availability when she has to attend board meetings in Augusta and whether Lessard should have to use personal or vacation time for days she’s required to be absent from her office.
Lessard pointed out that she routinely works more than 50 hours per week.
“The thing is, just because I’m at a board meeting, that doesn’t mean town business isn’t getting done,” said Lessard, who said she is always available by phone, even when she’s in Augusta.
Lessard is serving her second term as BEP chairwoman after being reappointed by Gov. Paul LePage in October 2011.
She received the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award in 2002 for developing a process of major landfill expansion projects in Hampden by municipal review. She also received the Maine Engineering Excellence Award in 1998 and the Maine Town and City Manager’s Association Leadership Award in 1999 for development of an alternative landfill capping plan while serving as town manager for Vinalhaven.
Councilors Jeremy Williams and Andre Cushing both said Lessard’s value to the town is increased by her association with the BEP but it wouldn’t hurt to review the town’s policy regarding employees who also serve other agencies in committee.
Councilor Tom Brann said it was counterproductive to review an arrangement already agreed upon between the council and Lessard when the manager’s five-year contract was formalized.
The councilors agreed to include the arrangement and what is expected of town employees who serve with other agencies in the council handbook, which is being completed.
In other business, the council:
• Unanimously approved a $31,600 match from town funds to a $131,000 Maine Department of Transportation grant for construction of a sidewalk extension along Western Avenue to Sidney Street, a crosswalk across the street, and another extension of the sidewalk on the other side of Western to Mayo Road. The total length of the sidewalk extension is 792 feet. The vote was 6-0, with Councilor Shelby Wright absent.
• Approved acceptance of state Urban-Rural Initiative Program funds totaling $78,787.
• Authorized payment of $1,250 for repair of a rotted section of wall at the Edythe Dyer Community Library out of reserve rather than operations budget funds. Using operations money would have depleted that fund’s budget.
• Approved adding language to the town’s outdoor facilities ordinance so ceremonial or special events requiring discharge of firearms, such as Civil War re-enactments, are allowed.
• Approved the enactment of and introduced an ordinance for public approval exempting eligible active-duty U.S. military personnel from paying excise taxes on their primary vehicles.