Two vacancies, mayor appoints one to Comprehensive Planning Commission

By Larry Di Giovanni | Jun 10, 2014
Photo by: Larry Di Giovanni Amy Files, pictured June 9 during the Rockland City Council meeting, is highly qualified to fill a seat on the city's Comprehensive Planning Commission, says its Chairwoman Valli Geiger.

Rockland — As the Rockland City Council neared the end of its June 9 meeting, Pleasant Street resident Amy Files said she was surprised that Mayor Larry Pritchett chose to fill only one of two open vacancies on the Comprehensive Planning Commission.

A late addition to the agenda was Resolve No. 27. With no discussion, city councilors voted 5-0 to approve Pritchett's appointment of Adam Acker, a local contractor who specializes in historic restoration, for one open commission seat.

Files — a graphic designer who regularly attends City Council and Planning Board meetings — said she was one of the applicants for an open seat. She also said she had been recommended by Valli Geiger, chairwoman of the Comprehensive Planning Commission, which made it disappointing that she did not receive an appointment.

"Amy is very interested in zoning and ordinances and protecting residential neighborhoods, as am I," Geiger said June 10. "She does her homework."

Files said it is even more disappointing not to receive an appointment knowing that one commission member, Audra Caler-Bell, may miss at least a few meetings due to maternity leave. Two appointments were therefore needed to help ensure a quorum. The commission has seven members when the board is full, plus one alternate.

"You should ask Mayor Pritchett about it," Files said.

Reached for comment June 10, Pritchett said Files is still under consideration for a seat on the Comprehensive Planning Commission, as are several others who have expressed interest in serving on the commission or the Planning Board.

"With any of these boards, I'm trying to find the right mix of people," Pritchett said, which factors in their professional backgrounds, experience, and interests, as well as their length of time in Rockland. He added that he hopes to make another commission appointment soon "so that no one feels left out."

Acker, the newest member of the Comprehensive Planning Commission, has a background not just as a contractor, but one who specializes in historic restoration, Pritchett said. Acker has been working on restoring the Knox mansion in Thomaston.

Files, who has lived in Rockland less than two years, said Acker was a good choice for one commission seat.

As an engaged Pleasant Street resident, Files has spoken out at numerous city meetings in opposition to the height, overall size, and traffic impacts of Cabot Lyman's proposed $2.9 million, 26-suite hotel at 250 Main St. The project is located at the corner of Pleasant and Main streets and will have an adverse impact on the Pleasant Street neighborhood, Files and others have said.

Files has also expressed concerns that the Planning Board should be receptive to public comments on all projects and should televise its meetings.

"Is she [Files] a thorn in the side of the City Council and Planning Board?" Geiger asked. "Yes, she is. But I would rather have someone on the commission who cares and thinks things out and gets all of us to look for solutions."

Geiger said that the power to appoint board members "is one of the few powers that our mayor has" and should be respected. He is doing what he thinks is best to find a well-rounded board whose members reflect all important stakeholders in Rockland, she offered.

"I talk to commission and board chairs about anybody I appoint, before I appoint them," Pritchett said, adding that he "wouldn't say" that his discussions with Geiger about Files involved a specific recommendation.

Pritchett provided a May email between him and Geiger, during which the mayor listed 10 names of individuals interested in filling seats on the Comprehensive Planning Commission and Planning Board when they become open. "If you know any of these folk, let me know," he writes Geiger.

The names include Acker, Files, Greg Mason, Milan Nevajda, Chris Brown, Petrea Allen, and David Ernst. Pritchett also noted that former Rockland Fire Chief Charlie Jordan Jr. "is going to the Planning Board," Patti Moran "is going on Personnel Board," and Tony Coyne "is going on Energy."

The email mentions that both he and Geiger have talked with Files.

Courier Publications reporter Larry Di Giovanni can be reached at 594-4401 x. 117, or by email at: ldigiovanni@villagesoup.com.

Comments (4)
Posted by: Amy Files | Jun 12, 2014 13:06

A colleague just alerted me that this letter of Mayor Pritchett's has been published—it was sent to me by email and so I hadn't realized he intended for the conversation to be published. Since the Mayor wishes to air his reasoning publicly, then please find my response below (already sent by email):

Dear Larry,

 

Thank you for your quick response.

 

We have spoken multiple times but each time the only reason I was given was that there were - potentially - other "possible" applicants. What I understood was that I have been the only actual applicant to the Commission for quite some time now. And that, though there are others that you might want to encourage applying -- if there were applications in, they were for the Planning Board -- not Comps.

 

While I respect your desire for a diverse group on the Commission and think that it is very valid to not want a whole group of "new" residents, this is the very first time that you have offered any concrete reasoning for your hesitation.

 

On top of the long wait, on multiple occasions you have told me that my appointment would be on the next agenda — this has happened about three times now. I am not sure why you would feel it's appropriate to hold back an applicant's appointment when you've already told them they would be appointed, particularly when there were multiple openings to be filled and they have been actively participating with the understanding that their appointment was forthcoming.

 

If my "newness" as a resident is the main issue—since a judgement on time can be subjective—I would like to understand at what point I will no longer be considered a new resident. I agree that by most folk's sense, I am still new, but I'm not sure it's fair to say that a majority of the Comp's group are still new. I don't know how long the other members have lived here but, besides Audra and Ann; my sense was that all of the others have been living in the midcoast area for at least 5+ years.

 

I will continue to attend the Comps meetings, as I have already been and now feel invested in the work. I respect that it is your prerogative as Mayor to act as you wish in regards to this matter but I do hope that you will consider following-through on your assurances and promptly finalize my appointment.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

Amy Files



Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jun 10, 2014 16:44

Two openings coming up on the city council, Amy.

Is she [Files] a thorn in the side of the City Council and Planning Board?" Geiger asked. "Yes, she is. But I would rather have someone on the commission who cares and thinks things out and gets all of us to look for solutions."



Posted by: James York | Jun 10, 2014 16:43

Very reasonable explanation Mr. Mayor.

I would add that it should be important for those on the 'visionary' committees to recognize Rockland is a city - in its feel and function - for the residents who live in-town and for those who live in the greater Mid-Coast region.



Posted by: Larry Pritchett | Jun 10, 2014 16:10

Dear Amy,

I feel like I have attempted to clearly answer your question in prior conversations. As I noted, among folks expressing interest in serving on City committees, I had 10 people expressing interest in a total of five open positions between the Comprehensive Planning Commission ("Comps") and Planning Board

Especially for "Comps," I feel that is important to have a strong commission that includes a range of backgrounds and experience. "Comps" in its long range planning role, possible more than any other committee, deals with questions that could impact many (all?) aspects of the community

It had been my intent to fill most/all of the remaining positions on the Comprehensive Planning Commission at the same time. However, one Comps member is due to give birth to her first child soon and a second member occasionally misses some meetings due to a varying work schedule

Given those two challenges in terms of committee member attendance, I decided to move ahead with one appointment to keep "Comps" with more than enough members to insure a quorum while I worked through the remaining folk expressing interest

When I considered the people expressing interest, Adam had years of experience in Rockland. Plus, as a contractor, he does a lot of work on historic buildings. Both of those seem useful to "Comps." No current Comps member (nor any other applicant) had Adam's blend of background and experience. Thus, I was very comfortable nominating him

I think it speaks to Rockland's strengths as a community that folk ranging in age from 25 to 75 chose to move here and make Rockland their home. As Mayor, I welcome new faces and new voices and different experiences to City government

As valuable and helpful as new perspectives and new voices are, a majority of current Comps members have lived in Rockland less than five years. These are all great folk whose work I very much value. But as Mayor I am reluctant to fill an important City Commission with new residents

Likewise, while I value the skills and background you have, at least two current members of Comps have similar backgrounds. So, again, my preference is to appoint members that would bring a broad range of backgrounds to the Comprehensive Planning Commission's work

I am still considering you (among other applicants) for the remaining position on Comps. If you do not wish to be appointed, please let me know. I have made committee nominations almost every month I have served as Mayor.

Sincerely,
Mayor Larry R. Pritchett



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Larry Di Giovanni
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Larry Di Giovanni, a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience, is returning to his daily reporting roots in order to cover the city of Rockland for The Courier-Gazette. Originally from Athens, Ohio, his family includes one son, Tony.

Di Giovanni has covered news beats ranging from the city of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., to the largest tribal government in the United States — the Navajo Nation. He has also worked as a writer in the public education and higher education fields. He's an animal enthusiast and loves dogs.

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