December 03, 2019
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Madawaska residents call for resignation of town administrators after controversial tax hike

Morgan Mitchell | Fiddlehead Focus
Morgan Mitchell | Fiddlehead Focus
Residents of Madawaska line up to sign the petition calling for the resignations of Town Manager Gary Picard and Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, Don Chasse, as well as the suspension of Finance Director Dana Gendreau at the Nov. 25 public hearing.

MADAWASKA, Maine — A group of residents led by Aaron Cyr called Monday night for the resignation of two of the town’s top administrators, including the town manager and a selectman, and the suspension of the financial director/assistant town manager.

The demand came during a public session in which Town Manager Gary Picard and the Board of Selectmen were explaining to an unhappy audience of nearly 300 people why their taxes are going up 3 mills in 2020.

The residents specifically named Picard, Board of Selectmen Chairman Don Chasse and financial director/assistant town manager Dana Gendreau.

The tax increase made necessary by a mandated adjustment in Twin Rivers’ valuation was the latest in a series of actions that angered the group of residents.

The 3 mill increase brings the tax rate from 20.2 to 23.2, which means that a homeowner will pay $23.20 for every $1,000 in property value. A property assessed at $100,000 will cost the homeowner $2,320 in taxes in 2020, which is up $300 on the same property in 2019.

“To try to blame the mill for what’s happened to me is a cop out,” Cyr said. “You guys put all your eggs in one basket and we got the wrong end of the deal.”

Cyr said Tuesday the citizen group is petitioning for Picard’s resignation because “he has failed to bring forth a balanced and sound budget, never answers questions, he is never available at the town office, [and there’s] incisive borrowing and misinformation and disinformation.”

Cyr cited several times in which he claims the town borrowed money for municipal projects that were not completed.

He said that the group is seeking the suspension of Gendreau because “if she is the one doing the books, and the board and Gary are overspending, she should be letting them know the financial cliff the town is standing over.”

Cyr said he’s been to several town meetings with no resolve. For that reason, he brought out two citizen petitions — one to the board and one to the town clerk — for filing. By the end of Monday’s meeting, Cyr had an additional 34 signatures, sending the count well over 200. The amount of signatures required to submit the petition is 10 percent of the voters in the last election, which was roughly 1800, according to Cyr.

The petitions read: “To the Board of Selectmen of the Town of Madawaska, we, the undersigned, being registered voters of the town of Madawaska, request the Board of Selectmen to place the following articles before the Boarders for their consideration: 1) termination of Madawaska Town Manager, Gary M. Picard for neglect of his fiduciary duties; 2) the immediate suspension to suspend all duties performed by financial director Dana L. Gendreau, and; 3) an independent audit of the town of Madawaska for the last two fiscal years.”

Selectman Chasse said an audit typically happens every year, but Cyr said he was asking for the last two years combined for the purposes of review.

Cyr then said he was filing a letter of intent to recall one of the board members due to a conflict of interest.

“You work for the water district and every bill that is put forth, you never recuse yourself from it, your name is always there, and it’s a unanimous vote,” Cyr directed to Chasse. “That is a conflict of interest and I know that you know that, because it’s been brought up time and time again.”

Cyr said the best thing for Chasse to do was to “admit that it’s a conflict of interest and resign” — the audience erupted into applause.

“The water district is quasi municipal [and] independent of the action of the town of Madawaska,” Chasse said.

Neither Picard nor Gendreau were available for comment.

 



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