VEAZIE, Maine — Town councilors continued to take steps Monday toward regaining control over local education in the wake of the town’s recent vote to pull out of RSU 26.
In separate referendums on Nov. 6, residents of Glenburn and Veazie — two of the three towns that make up RSU 26 — voted to pull out of the school district they formed less than three years ago, leaving Orono the only member.
Heartburn over cost-sharing and a desire to regain control over local education were cited as reasons for withdrawing by residents of both Veazie and Glenburn. They also balked at the regional school unit’s system of weighted votes.
On Monday, Veazie councilors were briefed on some of the tasks and issues the town needs to address between now and July 1, 2013, when the withdrawals take effect.
RSU and town officials are still assessing what the withdrawal votes will mean for Orono, Glenburn and Veazie. That’s largely because the RSU is charting some relatively new waters. RSU 26 is among the first regional school units in Maine to get this far in the breakup process.
In his report to councilors, Veazie Town Manager Joe Hayes said he met with the RSU’s business office staff to determine what changes will need to be made regarding payroll, unemployment and workers’ compensation insurance and employee contracts once the school becomes a town department.
RSU 26 Superintendent Doug Smith said earlier this month that he has decided to serve as Glenburn’s superintendent. He also said that he, along with the current business manager, technology coordinator and payroll clerk, will provide their respective services for the RSU for one year.
That means Veazie and Orono now must find a superintendent and staff of their own, which Smith said are services they could share.
Other matters that Smith said each of the three towns will have to address soon include making contract arrangements for student transportation and property and casualty insurance. The RSU’s contracts with Cyr Bus for transportation and the Maine School Management Association expire at the end of June of next year.
On Monday night, the Veazie Town Council appointed the first three members of its five-member interim school board, which will serve as Veazie’s transition team. They are current RSU 26 board members Julia Hathaway, Travis Noyes and Christopher Dalton, Hayes said.
While Hayes noted that the three appointees constitute a quorum, two more members are needed. He said interested residents should fill out a citizen involvement application and submit it to him at the town office.
Veazie also is looking for five residents willing to serve on the town’s new Board of Assessment Review. Ideally, the board also would have two alternate members, Hayes said.
The assessment review panel was created earlier this year at the recommendation of tax assessor Ben Birch. This spring, while preparing for the townwide revaluation now under way, Birch learned that property assessment appeals were being reviewed by the town’s Board of Appeals.
Noting that the appeals board is responsible for land use, zoning and similar matters, Birch thought it made sense to separate out the work of handling assessment questions and disputes and assigned it to separate body.
Also on Monday, councilors awarded a contract for solid waste collection to Casella-owned Pine Tree Waste Services, which submitted the low bid of $42,020. Pine Tree’s bid beat those of its competitors Sullivan Waste, which offered to do the work for $58,500, and Evergreen Waste, which bid $134,656, Hayes said.
The town’s solid waste contract includes weekly curbside collection of rubbish and recyclables, the annual spring cleanup and the cost of Dumpsters at Veazie Villas and Veazie Community School.
Hayes said the new contract, which kicks in on Jan. 1, will save the town nearly $30,000 a year. The current contract costs more than $72,000.