BELGRADE — The recent dismissal of Jessica Moore as the town’s recreation director has highlighted tension between parks and recreation board members and municipal officials.

Moore was hired in 2006 by the Waterville Boy’s & Girl’s Club, which had a contract with the town to run the recreation facility. Town Manager Gregory Gill decided late last month not to renew Moore’s contract.

“I can’t say anything about that,” Gill said Monday. “It’s a personnel issue. It’s done.”

Moore said the decision and the lack of a clear reason for it upset her.

“When I asked him why I was being let go, he said he didn’t need a reason,” Moore said. “This puts me in a spot. People are still calling me at home. … They want to know what’s going on. It’s emotionally draining for me and my family and it puts us in financial distress, especially during the holidays. I feel patrons deserve more than what they’re getting from their town representatives.”

Meanwhile, members of Board of Parks and Recreation plan to attend tonight’s Board of Selectpersons meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the Town Office.

Linda Bacon, director of the Board of Parks and Recreation, said her board held an emergency meeting last Wednesday when its members learned that Moore’s contract would not be renewed.

“It came as a shock,” Bacon said. “There wasn’t any indication that was going to happen. There did seem to be a bit of a personality conflict between the town manager and Jess, but we had no qualms with regards to her ability or the way she ran the center. She brought the center to life. She has instituted so many programs and fundraising activities. She has just done a great job.”

Last year, the town took over management of the Belgrade Community Center for All Seasons. At that time, Gill had Moore sign a contractual agreement with the town that extended to Nov. 23, 2011.

Moore said she expected Gill to renew her contract because she received an excellent performance evaluation from the Board of Parks and Recreation. She also said the Budget Committee and Board of Selectpersons had voted on Nov. 20 to give her a 3 percent raise. Her salary was $30,900.

Instead, Gill showed up at the center with Selectperson Ernie Rice a day before her contract expired and abruptly told her that he had decided not to renew her contract.

“I e-mailed the town manager and asked when my contract needed to be reviewed, because I hadn’t been contacted yet; and he said he would meet with me on Nov. 22,” Moore said. “He came to the center with Mr. Rice when I had a full facility of patrons. I thought they had come in to discuss my evaluation, but they came in and said they were not going to renew my contract.”

“I was asked to give up my key that day and remove all my things without any kind of warning. I really think this is an unfair way to treat an employee.”

Rice also declined to comment on Moore’s dismissal. He said Gill handles the hiring and firing of town employees.

“It’s strictly a town manager function,” Rice said Monday. “Anything to deal with personnel is off limits. It’s confidential information. People can get into a lot of trouble if they say anything.”

Bacon said she has a list of questions for selectpersons at tonight’s meeting, including:

* How to make sure the next recreation director “is not the victim of the same resentment that the other two have had to deal with from those opposed to the town’s acceptance of the center 11 years ago.”

* What detailed proof is needed to convince the Board of Selectpersons that the center provides valuable town services and opportunities for all residents. “We object that some selectpersons have said in public meetings that the Center for All Seasons is the center for no reason,” the parks and recreation board writes.

* Whether previous recreation directors signed contracts or were salaried employees.

* What the complaint process is for contract nonrenewal, whether complaints are being collected and how many have been received.

Bacon said she thought Gill handled the matter poorly.

“The walls in the center do not block sound,” she said. “Patrons and volunteers in the library overheard much of what (went) on through the vent system. Workers had to come into the office to retrieve children’s belongings during the meeting. Parents were there. Children were in there. Zumba exercise class was there. … It was not a professional way of dealing with the situation. The whole way it happened was unreasonable.”

Some parks and recreation board members found out about Moore’s dismissal from text messages teenagers at the center sent to teenagers elsewhere, Bacon said.

Bacon said members of her board want to know whether and when Moore received feedback in the form of a performance review by the town manager and what was included in that review.

Moore said the center serves 200 youths in its summer program. At least 50 families are signed up for the after-school program. Children and adults are enrolled in all the classes and activities offered at the center, including baseball, softball, karate and dance. The center also is rented out for birthday parties and weddings, she said.

“It’s being utilized more now than it’s ever been,” Moore said. “I’ve had to turn people away because our weekends are so full. People are using the building.”

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663

[email protected]

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