Municipal panel questions transfer of $51,000 from inactive bank account

Posted Oct. 12, 2012, at 12:38 p.m.

GUILFORD, Maine — The Municipal Review Committee Inc. — a nonprofit organization that represents 187 Maine municipalities that have their solid waste delivered to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in Orrington — has urged the 28 towns in eastern Maine that comprised the Penobscot Valley Refuse Disposal District in 1983 to inquire why $51,000 from their inactive organization’s bank account was transferred to the Eastern Maine Development Corp.

The Municipal Review Committee has asked the member towns — which include Atkinson, Brownville, Dexter, Dover-Foxcroft, Exeter, Guilford and Milo — to inquire if they are interested in recovering the funds.

The committee sent surveys out to the towns last month about reconvening the Penobscot Valley Refuse Disposal District board of directors, which has been inactive since 1997. The organization began as the forerunner to PERC. The disposal district worked to develop solid waste disposal solutions for its members.

The agency decided to become inactive in 1999 rather than disband. The disposal district left $51,000 in its bank account, which remained there until February 2012. The directors also chose to keep approximately $10,000 as seed money in a bank account and return the remaining $41,000 to its members later.

The Municipal Review Committee checked on the funds in April as the last signers of the disposal district bank account, former town managers Marie Baker of Hampden and Peter Chase of Glenburn, approached retirement age. The signers needed to contact District Administrator Gregory Lounder, who was also planning to leave his position with the committee, to ensure the funds were returned to the communities.

During what Lounder considered a routine inquiry, he said it was discovered the funds had been transferred in February into the Eastern Maine Development Corp.’s control. EMDC officials told the Municipal Review Committee that the bank encouraged them to assume control of the funds to avoid transfer to the state’s unclaimed property fund. It was also explained the move was done in consultation with the EMDC’s outside auditing firm.

The Guilford selectmen discussed the situation during their Oct. 2 board meeting. According to Town Manager Tom Goulette, the Municipal Review Committee and member towns don’t know why the bank contacted the EMDC to take ownership of the funds.

“That seems to be where the real mystery is. Nobody really knows the answer,” Goulette said. “We need to reconvene the board to decide how we want to proceed as far as recovering those funds. The EMDC and PVRDD were once located in the same Bangor office and shared some staff. That may have something to do with it, but I don’t really know.”

Bank officials would only confirm to the Municipal Review Committee that the EMDC’s president is the current signer on the account. The committee hopes to discuss the situation with the EMDC to arrive at a mutual resolution.

“It is our understanding that the EMDC’s president has expressed a willingness to further discuss the matter and share information with the duly authorized PVRDD representatives,” Lounder said in a letter to disposal district members. “In addition to drawing on his institutional knowledge of the PVRDD, the president is spending the transferred funds on programs that closely match the PVRRD’s municipal purposes and functions.”

The Guilford selectmen chose Goulette to serve as their representative on the disposal district board. Goulette supports returning the missing funds to the towns.

A meeting date hasn’t been selected, because other towns are still selecting their representatives. So far, 20 of the member towns have chosen a representative.

Goulette expects the disposal district board to meet later this month.

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