NEWBURGH, Maine — After a long and sometimes heated debate, the Newburgh board of selectmen narrowly voted to make the town’s administrative assistant the new town manager on Monday night.
In a 3-2 vote, the board accepted a contract for Serena Bemis-Goodall to become Newburgh’s town manager, effective at the town meeting on March 5. She has been serving as the town’s administrative assistant and treasurer since October.
It wasn’t without argument among the board and audience.
Selectmen Claude Bolduc and Chris Yountz objected to the fact that revisions had been made to the contract they were given during the Feb. 11 meeting. The board had received a revised copy through email after members of the board contacted the Maine Municipal Association.
“Who approved making these changes?” Bolduc asked.
“It wasn’t a formal contract. It was a draft copy we had to work with,” replied Selectman Jim Hopkins.
Bolduc said it seemed like members of the board negotiated new terms to the contract without consulting the rest of the board. Bolduc and Selectman Skip Smith denied it.
“We agreed last meeting to run it by MMA for changes and clarification. We talked about it and we did it,” said Hopkins.
The discussion then turned to Bolduc and Yountz stating at a previous meeting that they didn’t want Bemis-Goodall as the town’s manager.
“You both quite clearly stated that you didn’t want to take part in this,” Hopkins said to Bolduc. “You clearly said that the only reason you were coming to this meeting was to vote against it.”
“They’re going to do what they want to do anyway,” said Yountz. “So us sitting here arguing is a waste of time. No need to get the blood pressure up.”
Mike Burns, a former selectman, took issue with the new town manager’s position being given an $11,000 raise over the current administrative assistant position. Bemis-Goodall will be paid $44,929 per year.
“We are putting a new town manager in place with a salary that is appropriate for said town manager,” said Smith.
Smith said the $44,929 figure was below average for a town the size of Newburgh, while Bolduc said it was generous.
“Why don’t you guys go in the back room and talk about this? You’re all adults here. Make a decision and move on,” said Buddy Belcher, a former selectman. “Work together. Quit being Obama and Boehner.”
After about 40 minutes from the beginning of the meeting, the board agreed to move the discussion into executive session.
“I don’t think we’re going to come to any agreement on this anyway,” said Smith.
“I guess I agree with that,” replied Bolduc. “There’s too wide of a bridge.”
After an hour of discussion, the board returned from executive session before the 10 members of the audience and voted to make Bemis-Goodall the town manager.
Newburgh will revert to a town manager form of government with three selectmen after one year with an administrative assistant form of government with five selectmen.