READFIELD — The town has a person on staff to maintain its properties and a contract with a private company to plow its roads.

In that regard, things are back to the way they were before the formation of the Readfield Public Works Department in 2009.

But the controversy over the elimination of the department last year left a lingering bitterness in the town that a facilitator-led “community healing effort” may not have cleared.

Facilitator Dana Lee’s report, distributed in the December Readfield Messenger, says the Board of Selectmen needs to invite more input, analyze and explain budget information more effectively and slow some decision processes.

Some residents and members of other committees were guilty of “fanning the flames” with “harsh words and actions” and needed to act more respectfully, Lee concluded.

“I believe that with some better listening, more patience and some additional good faith, Readfield has a bright future,” Lee wrote.

Sue Reay, one of the residents who advocated for the Public Works Department to be abolished, took part in the healing process but doesn’t feel it has helped.

“I don’t see the results of what we were hoping to gain from that — that the town could heal and start reuniting,” she said.

In a response printed in the Messenger, Selectman Larry Dunn said Lee’s report fell short by not addressing the harassment of town employees and volunteers during the debate over public works.

Dunn did not return calls last week.

Also in the Messenger, Town Manager Stefan Pakulski — who was on vacation last week and did not respond to an email seeking comment — lamented the effects of shutting down the department.

He estimated nearly $500,000 in direct costs so far because of deferred maintenance, higher-cost contracts and the sale of equipment at a loss.

In addition, “much of the work of town government ground to a halt during this political struggle,” Pakulski wrote.

The select board awarded Horne Construction of Mount Vernon a four-year $1,035,000 plowing contract after two other contractors, including Reay’s company, withdrew their bids due to conflicts with town officials.

In November, the select board hired Mark Birtwell for a full-time position as town maintenance worker. His wage is $14 an hour.

The town has brought in $268,845 by selling various equipment, including plows, two trucks, a trailer and burlap bags.

Several more pieces of equipment are still up for sale.

Readfield’s interlocal agreement to provide some public works services to Manchester, Wayne and Regional School Unit 38 will be allowed to expire on June 30, Wayne Town Manager Amy Bernard said.

Wayne and Readfield will go out to bid together for roadside mowing, one of the services provided through the agreement.

Bernard is hoping that the two towns combined will be able to secure a good price.

“Because it’ll be a larger quantity of work, we may get it for a lesser price,” she said.

Susan McMillan — 621-5645

[email protected]

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