Councilor disagrees on sewer camera, takes city manager to task for lack of information
Rockland — A Rockland City Council meeting that began with harmony in giving commendations to four employees soon fell into discord over the proposed purchase of a $90,000 sewer camera.
Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson objected to a proposed $90,000 bond ordinance to purchase a sewer and storm water imaging system. The bond proposal followed three others and would have brought the total of the four to $220,000.
"We are about to spend almost a quarter of a million dollars," she said. "Here we have $90,000 for a camera system. We're spending some money."
She also objected to the inclusion of the camera bond this week because it had not been one of the agenda-setting items the week before.
The three previous bonds on the agenda were $20,000 for a Summer Street sewer and water separation bond, $50,000 for a Pen Bay Acres drainage bond, and $60,000 for a library chimney repair bond. All three had been discussed by the council Sept. 5 at the agenda-setting session.
City Manager James L. Smith, who proposed the camera bond ordinance, said he was prompted by the emergency water main break over the weekend at North Main and Cedar streets.
He said technology such as a water and sewer line camera could have foreseen the problem coming in the line.
"If we're going to be effective in avoidance of pollution, we should do it sooner rather than later," he said.
Smith also defended his recommendation by pointing out that he was not adding any more debt than had been budgeted.
Finance Director Thomas Luttrell spoke from the floor to point out that the city would be retiring debt next summer before the new bonds had to be paid.
Councilor Will Clayton said he would have to know the cost of maintenance and upkeep of the camera system, the 2010 and 2011 costs for sewer problems, and the ability of the city to rent the camera out to other municipalities as a way to recoup some of the expense, before he could support the purchase.
Dickerson chided Smith for not bringing more information to the council in recommending the camera system so that councilors could make an informed decision before the voters.
"That's a lot of money for a camera," she said. "We don't know the whole dollar figure. To me, that's not enough information."
The council decided to go ahead and support the four bond questions, since they were in the first reading process, and the bonds would have to go to a public hearing on Wednesday, Oct. 10.
The vote on sewer camera was 4-1, with Dickerson opposing. She also opposed a companion question on funding, Order 50, adopting a a declaration of official intent on the sewer imaging system.
In another issue involving discussion, the city council adopted a final reading on Ordinance 18, Chapter 19, on single pupil instruction under all three levels of home occupation. The council passed the proposed order, but failed to pass an amendment put forth Sept. 6 by the Rockland Comprehensive Planning Commission to change the hours of instruction from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Frank C. Isganitis, chairman of the Comprehensive Planning Commission, included a memorandum with the councilors' packet explaining the proposed change of hours. But no one from the commission attended the council meeting to explain the recommendation further.
Councilors said they could not understand the reason for change and decided to take it up at their next meeting.
The council gave commendations to four employees: Debra Goss, for her retirement after 11 years with the police department; James Gamage for 20 years with the recreation department, Ronald Teel for 20 years of service with the water pollution control department, and Assistant Chief Mikial Mazzeo for 20 years with the fire department.
Council also appointed Carole Martin to serve on the Library Advisory Committee and City Manager Smith to be a Maine Municipal Association voting delegate.
The council also granted an operating license to Joe's Taxi and liquor and entertainment licenses to Fog Bar & Cafe.
An order to amend harbor fees was postponed. It was noted that a simplified fee order would be prepared for the October meeting with an ordinance amendment to insert the appropriate regulatory language in the Code.
Council passed 5-0 a residential sprinkler exemption and set poll hours on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Mayor Brian Harden announced a special council meeting for Monday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. for a six-month evaluation of the city manager. The evaluation will be held in executive session, but the meeting will start in open session to consider other matters, Harden said.
Courier Publications reporter George Chappell can be reached at 207-594-4401, ext. 117, or email@example.com.