LIMESTONE, Maine — Three resignations received board approval during the Sept. 5 meeting of the Limestone Board of Selectpeople, whittling the five-person board down to three and leaving the town without a director of the Parks and Recreation Department.
In addition, Town Clerk Marlene Durepo submitted a certified petition signed by 186 residents for the recall of current selectpeople Tom Devoe, Gary O’Neal and Jesse Philbrick.
Submitting their resignations were former Limestone selectpeople Danny Gahagan Sr. and Jimmy Pelletier as well as Parks and Recreation Director Amanda Brooker.
Brooker is now employed by RSU 39 as a physical education/health teacher at Teague Park Elementary School/Limestone Community School, as approved by the RSU 39 School Board on Aug. 22.
Gahagan and Pelletier submitted their resignations to the town on Aug. 16 and 17 respectively, but the resignations were not effective until they received board approval at the last meeting, which Gahagan attended as an audience member. Gahagan and Pelletier each cited their own reasons for stepping down, and both resignations following the contested Aug. 15 selectpeople’s meeting.
Shortly after the Aug. 15 meeting of the Limestone Board of Selectpeople, a petition began circulating throughout the town to recall board members Pelletier, Devoe, Philbrick and O’Neal from their elected positions on the Limestone Board of Selectpeople; the petition began circulating after Gahagan Sr. had submitted his written resignation to the town office.
During the Aug. 15 meeting, O’Neal, Devoe and Philbrick swung the vote in favor of terminating the town’s contract with Fort Fairfield for shared services of Fire Chief Paul Durepo — a decision that was reversed days later during a special board meeting on Aug. 20. The decision to terminate Durepo’s contract came two meetings after the board voted unanimously to not re-appoint Limestone’s Police Chief Stacey Mahan as head of the police department — a decision the selectpeople also rescinded.
According to the ordinance for the recall of elected selectmen of the town of Limestone, the selectmen have 10 days from the Sept. 5 meeting to order an election by secret ballot that must be held in no less that 45 days and no more than 60 days from the time of the meeting. The two-page ordinance, adopted by voters in 2010, was explained to the selectpeople by Town Clerk Durepo.
Durepo said she was expecting a written response by the selectpeople within 10 days.
The board unanimously approved a motion to table action on the certified petition and send all materials involved down to the attorney general’s office in Augusta for a legal opinion.
According to Town Manager Donna Bernier as of Monday afternoon, tabling action on the recall petition does not change the necessity for the selectpeople to set an election date within 10 days of the meeting.
The disputed Aug. 15 decision to terminate the fire chief’s contract was brought up once more during the Sept. 5 meeting. Philbrick, who made the original motion, expressed that the minutes submitted for board approval from the Aug. 15 meeting were inaccurate.
Stating that he had reviewed the tape of the Aug. 15 meeting three times, Philbrick requested that the record be corrected to reflect that his motion was simply to terminate the contract — not to hire a chief or share a chief.
“I want that stricken from the record, because that’s not what I said,” he told Town Manager Bernier.
During the elected officials’ report portion of the Aug. 15 meeting, Philbrick initially stated:
“We got a contract with Fort Fairfield and it has lapsed for two years for the fire chief’s deal, but anyway, we ought to do something with that. I think there’s a savings here. We’re currently paying $21,100 for Paul’s services, and I feel that we can hire a chief for around 10, hire our own chief with our department. I’d like to have you fellows just think on it. The budget committee, they want us to save money, and this is a way to do it. You can save yourselves $11,000 pretty easy. I think I’m going to make a motion that we look into this and ought to terminate the contract as of Sept. 1 and if we can save ourselves some money, save it.”
The original motion was altered through a fair amount of board discussion, including changing the date accompanying the motion back to Oct. 15. As discussion on the topic continued, then-Selectperson Chairman Jimmy Pelletier restated the motion to direct the conversation.
“The motion is made and seconded to terminate our joint fire chief situation as of Oct. 15 and to hire one for the town of Limestone,” Pelletier said during the Aug. 15 meeting.
When Bernier questioned Philbrick on Sept. 5 as to what he wanted corrected, he explained that his motion was just to terminate the contract and didn’t include any wording regarding the chief.
Later in the meeting, during her town manager’s report, Bernier also informed the selectpeople that they had received a new contract with the town of Fort Fairfield for the fire chief’s services. Bernier said she hoped the board would be able to approve the contract by their next meeting, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19, at the Limestone Municipal Building.