DRESDEN — Town residents will be asked at a special town meeting on March 11 to decide how the day-to-day business of the Town Office is conducted.

At a public hearing on Monday, the Board of Selectmen and Michael Henderson, the administrative assistant for the town, laid out a new plan for staffing the town office that calls for hiring positions like town clerk and tax collector rather than electing people to fill those jobs.

 

At the close of the hearing, resident Shari Lily said she wanted to take the 17-page proposal home and read through it and absorb it.

“I always preferred being able to elect (these positions),” Lily said. “I guess I’m just old-fashioned. I like being able to know the people running for office and create a judgment on them, not that I have to know them that well, but what they have to offer.”

Lily was among the 20 people gathered in Pownalborough Hall to hear the presentation and ask questions about what the change would mean to the people currently in those jobs, the cost to the town and how, if voters approve, the plan would roll out.

Historically, positions like town clerk and property tax collector have been elected in this western Lincoln County town. In Dresden, the people filling the positions work only part-time.

The proposal to hire professional staff rather than elect town office staff annually was developed in the wake of concerns raised about residents not being able to complete their town business in a single trip in part because those staff members don’t work enough hours to cover their duties and complete training. While the town office is open Monday through Friday, and on the the first Saturday of the month, it’s only for certain hours.

At the same time, as independently elected officials, town office staff members are not subject to background checks and work without supervision from anyone other than the town’s voters. The only qualifications for election are that they be at least 18 and a Dresden resident.

Henderson said the last time the positions received a raise was 2011. With elected positions, voters could choose to raise the pay for the town office staff, he said, but there’s no guarantee those people would be reelected to benefit from the raise. With appointed officials, raises could be tied to how well the person in the job is doing.

Dresden would retain its town meeting-form of government under the proposal, but it would have staff in the office that would be hired, supervised and held accountable by the town’s Board of Selectmen.

The new structure would have a town administrator/fiscal officer, whose duties would include those of the treasurer.

The proposed duties of the town clerk and tax collector roles would overlap more than they do now in registering motor vehicles and boats and issuing birth and death certificates and marriage licenses among other things. The town clerk’s duties would encompass running town elections, filing reports with Inland Fish & Wildlife and maintaining the public record. The tax collector would file required excise tax reports with the state, send out tax bills and file liens.

First Selectman Trudy Foss and Selectman Allan Moeller said if the plan is approved they would give preference to the people currently elected to the town office jobs, Town Clerk and Treasurer Shirley Storkson and Property Tax Collector and Excise Tax Collector Ann Pierce.

But Selectman Dwight Keene said if the hiring process identifies someone who has extensive qualifications, “we would be stupid not to hire them.”

The process has to be fair to all comers, Keene said.

During the hearing, Shirley Storkson, who Dresden’s town clerk and treasurer, said one of the chief concerns about how the town office is currently run is the amount of cross-training that has taken place.

“Right now, there’s one one area that needs to be cross-trained, and that’s me with the vehicles,” Storkson said. She noted that as she was learning her two major jobs, she initially could not handle taking on the third major job of learning the state’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles system.

“I am for it, and I think it needs to be done,” Storkson said, ” but it sounds likes it’s getting to the point where we’re not going to know final things until way after March.”

Storkson was referring to the funding piece.

As detailed in the proposal, the special town meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., on March 11, in Pownalborough Hall.

If voters agree to make the change at the special town meeting, the job announcements would be posted April 15 and applications would be due May 10. Interviews with qualified applicants would be scheduled May 13 to take place during the last two weeks of the month. If candidates are identified, offer letters would be sent by May 31, with an anticipated start date of June 10.

But to make the plan work, voters will have to approve funding for the new positions at the annual Town Meeting in June.

Lily said she’d turn out to vote at the special town meeting if she’s available.

As people were leaving the hearing, Moeller said the selectmen have been asked to conduct the vote by secret ballot.

“More than likely, when you vote, it will be by secret ballot,” he said.

 

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632
[email protected]
Twitter: @JLowellKJ

 

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: