Selectman says closed town office in Mattawamkeag will reopen

Posted Aug. 06, 2014, at 4:59 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 06, 2014, at 5:31 p.m.

MATTAWAMKEAG, Maine — Selectmen will follow the direction set by voters at a recent town meeting and allow a full-time and a part-time clerk to run the town office for the next year, board Chairman John Whitehouse said Wednesday.

The town office will be closed this week, but Whitehouse said it will reopen on Monday with Jodi Furge as head clerk, earning $14.23 per hour. He said Corris Richards will be the part-timer at $13.83 per hour.

Whitehouse described both Furge and Richards as experienced and that their rehiring leaves the town “in fine shape.”

Selectmen who met on Tuesday night set the town’s property tax rate at $20.38 per $1,000 of valuation. That’s down slightly from last year’s $20.40 rate. The town’s budget, Whitehouse said, sits at about $832,000 annually, with $756,425 coming from town taxpayers.

“We have to get by the best we can on the money we’ve got,” said Whitehouse, who was elected the board’s chairman. “The question was raised if a petition could be circulated to have another town meeting and reconsider those articles. I said residents can submit a petition if 10 percent of voters registered in the last election sign it.”

State case law, however, does not compel selectmen to comply with the petition, Whitehouse said.

Residents voted 49-38 at a town meeting on July 28 to cut the total salary of town office employees from $74,076 to $40,000. They also voted 51-37 to cut the Fire Department’s equipment, repairs, salaries, maintenance and training budget line from $56,361 to $40,000. The rest of the 52 articles passed as recommended, according to a vote summary sheet.

The vote essentially eliminated the town administrative assistant’s post held by Steve Worster, who said he was no longer interested in the job. Residents also feared that it would curtail fire service, but firefighters assured selectmen that fire and ambulance service would continue as it had, Whitehouse said.

Selectmen also will likely help the clerks with the town office workload. Their annual stipends of $6,000 will pay them for the work. No conflict of interest will exist so long as the selectmen limit themselves to customer service and avoid more technical work such as tax collection or directly managing town funds, Whitehouse said.

According to the new schedule, the town office will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays; it will be closed Tuesdays and Thursdays, except for general assistance distribution from 9 a.m. to noon; and it will operate from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays.

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