SKOWHEGAN — Selectmen dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s Tuesday night on nepotism in town government and how it relates to hiring practices in the municipal personnel policy.

The board also set in motion the town’s park-and-ride lot on Island Avenue, voting to allow the road commissioner to go out for bids on the paving of the lot next to the Federated Church for all-day parking.

Selectmen voted to add language on nepotism — the practice of town officials favoring family members when it comes to employment — to the personnel policy.

The matter was first raised in June 2016 when Town Manager Christine Almand’s husband, Joseph, a call firefighter who works in construction, expressed interested in applying for an open, full-time position on the Fire Department.

While selectmen agreed last year that it would be unfair for someone to be excluded from advancement because of a relationship with an employee or department head, there were pitfalls to consider. Labor negotiations for wages and benefits involve the town manager, and if Almand had to recuse herself from the bargaining table because of her husband’s job, then the town would lose her as someone needed in that position, selectmen said.

“They just wanted me to include that, because if something happened with my family member, I would be skipped in the process if there was a grievance or something like that. I wouldn’t be included in the negotiations if it involved a relative of mine,” Almand said Tuesday before the selectmen’s meeting.

Selectmen agreed Tuesday night to add a new sentence to the policy disallowing participation in personnel matters of a family member.

The board also agreed to other changes in the policy, including allowing town employees to donate sick leave to other employees who run out of sick time, and capping four weeks of vacation, with the exception of anyone hired before Jan. 1, 2007. Selectmen also added a health insurance buy-out clause for an employee who did not want to be covered by the town’s coverage plan and increased reimbursement rates for travel expenses from 38 cents a mile to 44 cents a mile.

Selectmen also updated employee contribution rates to reflect rates in the Maine Public Employees Retirement System and added post-retirement rehiring language.

On the park-and ride matter, Almand said that in order for the town to meet the Maine Department of Transportation commitment on the project, a request for bids on the work need to go out by Aug. 2.

Commuters who used the downtown municipal parking lot in front of the Bernard Langlais Indian sculpture soon will have access to a 24-hour park-and-ride lot on Island Avenue next to the Federated Church.

Selectmen voted in January to approve the project with a town share of $15,000 in the Maine Department of Transportation’s $68,000 project. The town’s share is coming from the downtown tax increment financing, or TIF, district.

The lot by the Indian has been a popular park-and-ride spot for as many as 10 commuters carpooling to the General Dynamics shipyard at Bath Iron Works, who would leave their vehicles there for the entire day. That changed when selectmen in September 2014 began work on an extended parking area — about 40 spots — in front of the Skowhegan Indian sculpture, agreeing to limit the area to two-hour parking. That area borders Cumberland Farms, an optometrist’s office building and Variety Drug. The new site would be a designated Maine Department of Transportation park-and-ride lot maintained by the town.

Commuters moved to a grassy gravel area off Weston Avenue, near Island Dairy Treat.

The job will include paving, the installation of five streetlights and painting of parking stripes and signs. Another advantage to the state-designated parking lot is that it will serve as a rest stop for drivers using U.S. Route 201.

Skowhegan Road Commissioner Greg Dore said it will not be a truck stop, but rather a place for workers to park and share rides to jobs in the southern part of the state. Trailers and vehicles longer than 24 feet will not be allowed to use the lot.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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