NORRIDGEWOCK — A sewer commission meeting to discuss the future of the town’s wastewater treatment plant turned contentious last week as the discussion turned to the town manager’s performance, some town officials said.

The meeting, described as “chaotic” by the commission’s chairwoman, was the latest in a series that has prompted her to seek legal advice about how the sewer commission operates, including how minutes are taken.

The meeting included members wanting to hold an executive session concerning Town Manager Michelle Flewelling — something they can’t legally do — and the refusal by members to agree to Chairwoman Kristina Gossman’s suggestion their meetings be recorded.

Gossman said the sewer commision’s problems are so troubling that she’s “ready to walk away.”

Minutes of the meeting were not available Tuesday, a week later, and Town Manager Michelle Flewelling said she didn’t want to release an audio recording she made on her own device until she had a chance to discuss it with the Board of Selectmen.

The focus of last week’s meeting was a letter the commissioners had received from selectmen asking them to come up with a plan for the future of the Norridgewock Wastewater Treatment Facility, which is chronically in debt and in need of repairs.

Gossman said Tuesday “there was a lot of negative reaction” to the selectmen’s request, though it is “kind of hard to explain what happened” at the meeting.

The commissioners have been invited to the Board of Selectmen’s regular meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Town Office to discuss the plans.

Gossman said last week’s meeting was “chaotic,” and she is seeking legal advice from the Maine Municipal Association as to how the commission operates.

“I’m ready to walk away from the board myself, but I don’t want to leave the town,” she said. “I’m trying to get some advice from the state at this point.”

Gossman said she has concerns about how minutes are taken at the commissioners’ meetings and said that Charlotte Curtis, the board’s secretary, leaves things out of the public record.

She said there are particular problems with minutes from two meetings the board held in August, including one at which Ron Currier, vice chairman of the commissioners, made a motion to forbid Flewelling to speak for the duration of the meeting. The motion passed but was reversed the next day when the meeting continued.

Curtis didn’t respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

“The minutes are crazy,” Gossman said. “They’re completely leading and one-sided. This is why I’m seeking legal advice, because I don’t agree with the minutes.”

Gossman made a motion Tuesday to record the meeting, but it was not seconded. She said other board members told her that “only guilty people want to record meetings.”

Currier said he wasn’t opposed to having the meeting recorded, but he didn’t see a need for the board to record the meeting after noting that the town manager was already doing so. Flewelling isn’t a commission member and isn’t responsible for its minutes.

“If a town authority is going to record a business meeting, doesn’t that belong to the town?” Currier said. “I really don’t know why she was recording if it wasn’t for the benefit of the entire board.”

Flewelling said she frequently records meetings on her own recorder. She said the recording includes information related to a personnel issue that could have legal implications and is going to be discussed by the board Wednesday in executive session.

Currier said he didn’t consider the meeting contentious and said that although a motion was made to discuss the town manager’s performance in executive session, it didn’t pass. Executive sessions can be called only to discuss individuals or officials who are appointed by or work for the agency. As town manager, Flewelling works for the Board of Selectmen, and it would be illegal for the commissioners to discuss her performance in executive session.

In the past, the town manager and the commissioners have had different opinions on whether a sewer rate increase should be implemented, with the commissioners not wanting to put a raise in place because the water district recently raised rates, Currier said.

Bruce Obert, who is also a commissioner, wouldn’t comment on whether there should be a plan for the future of the sewer plant or last week’s commissioners’ meeting.

The letter that the Board of Selectmen sent to commissioners asks for the two boards to discuss “future plans to address the deficiencies at the Norridgewock Waste Water Treatment Facility.”

“During the month of August, the Board of Selectmen discussed the (plant’s) lack of revenue to cover expenses, shortage of plant-wide preventative maintenance and the impact of malfunctions as they relate to our aging infrastructure,” the letter read. “These issues have been accumulating for many years and we believe that a plan to address them is in the entire Town’s best interest.”

As of Tuesday, the sewer department was operating on a deficit of $61,995.

The amount of money the department owes fluctuates, but Flewelling noted Tuesday that over the last several years, the department has spent, on average, $18,000 to $32,000 more than it has received in revenue each year. The last sewer rate increase took effect in 2012; the previous one, in 1994.

There are also concerns over the age of the town’s sewer system, and an emergency meeting was called in August so commissioners could approve spending for a broken backup pump.

It was at that meeting that the motion was made to silence Flewelling after she attempted to make the commission aware of potential liability if equipment breaks and the facility is in violation of Department of Environmental Protection regulations.

Gossman said the commissioners plan to ask Flewelling and Heinz Gossman, manager of the sewer plant, to come up with a plan for the plant’s future. Heinz Gossman is the brother of Kristina Gossman.

Curtis, the commission’s secretary charged with taking minutes at the meetings, resigned from her full-time job as office clerk in January 2012 for making secret audio recordings at the front desk of the Town Office. She was also the elected town clerk and treasurer, positions she held until the March election that year.

She also was found to be purposely not recording liens on unpaid sewer accounts.

This is a corrected version.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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