Two vacancies, mayor appoints one to Comprehensive Planning Commission
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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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