South Thomaston needs new form of government, outgoing chairman says

Posted Jan. 28, 2013, at 6:03 p.m.

SOUTH THOMASTON, Maine — The outgoing chairman of the Board of Selectmen said Monday that the town needs to change its form of government.

Chairman Jeffrey Northgraves said because of the complexities of state and federal laws, a full-time town manager is needed for the town.

Northgraves, who has served on the board since first elected in 2004, said the complexities of running a town are part of the reason he has decided not to seek re-election.

And earlier this month, Selectman Patrick “Mike” Florance resigned for health reasons. Florance had two years remaining on his term.

This means two seats will be up for election at the March 26 town meeting.

The deadline for filing nomination papers for the seats is Feb. 7. Anyone running for a seat will need the signatures of 25 registered voters to be a candidate at the town meeting.

Northgraves said that since he has joined the board, laws have become more complicated and there are more town employees.

“We’re no longer just a town of volunteers,” he said.

There are two ambulance personnel at the town office each day and there is a shellfish warden. The town, which has a population of 1,558, now has a municipal fire department as well as the clerical staff at the town office.

“We have three elected, nonprofessional people who don’t have the skill sets or time,” he said. He clarified that he means nonprofessional in terms of having knowledge of state and human resources laws.

The form of government could be changed by a vote of the residents at town meeting, he said. He said selectmen have discussed the issue but no study has been done to determine the cost of having a town manager form of government. The question will not be on the warrant of the March 26 town meeting, but he is hoping that people will start discussing the possibility.

In terms of the two seats up for election in March, two people have returned nomination papers.

Dorothy Meriwether has turned in papers for a three-year seat. She previously served one year, being elected in 2009 and resigning in 2010 — citing philosophical differences on the board.

And former Fire Chief Wayne Brown has turned in papers for the remaining two years of the seat previously held by Florance. Two other people — Sonja Sleeper and David Eaton — have taken out papers for the two-year seat but have not yet returned them to the town office.

The town meeting will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 26, at the Gilford Butler School.

At the meeting, residents will consider a proposed 2013 budget of $994,859, a 3.9 percent ($37,393) increase from the voter-approved 2012 budget.

The largest accounts in the budget are general government at $274,119; public safety at $204,084; sanitation at $191,164; and public works at $157,982.

Selectmen completed work on the recommended budget Thursday night.

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