Selectmen respond to citizen petition

By Louis Bettcher | Mar 13, 2018

Rockport — On March 12, members of the Rockport Select Board addressed a petition signed by 75 residents who believe in having public hearings and a public vote before entering into interagency agreements with Camden or other towns.

A petition started by Maynard Tolman garnered at least 75 signatures from Rockport residents who believe any future interdepartmental agreements between Camden and Rockport should be decided by a public vote -- not just approved by each town's select board and town manager.

The presentation and/or discussion of the petition was on the meeting's agenda, but none of the signatories was in attendance.

Chairman Ken McKinley said that he notified Tolman that the petition would be discussed, and that he and any other citizens would be welcome to speak on the subject. McKinley said that although the petition had not garnered enough signatures to appear on the warrant at the annual Town Meeting in June, that wasn't an expressed purpose of the petition.

"The signatories wanted to be sure that if we did any consolidation of services with surrounding towns, that we present that to the town for a vote....and I don't think that is unreasonable," said McKinley.

McKinley said that the interlocal agreements that Rockport is involved in are several, and include MidCoast Solid Waste, mutual aid from Camden and Rockport fire departments, sewer treatment facilities and waste water treatment as well as an agreement with the police chief and the assessor.

"All of those were entered into by a vote of the board; the Town Manager [Rick Bates] hasn't executed those on his own," said McKinley.

Camden and Rockport are currently in an interdepartmental agreement between police departments. Randy Gagne serves as police chief for both towns. On June 28, 2016, the Camden Select Board approved an inter-agency agreement appointing Gagne interim police chief for the town of Rockport. The Rockport Select Board had approved the agreement at a special meeting a day earlier.

The interdepartmental agreement has since been renewed by board members. Additionally, Kerry Leichtman serves as the assessor for both Camden and Rockport.

McKinley and Selectman Owen Casas agreed that if "merging a full department" were a possibility, that would be appropriate to be put before a town vote.

"When [the petition] called for doing things at the annual town meeting, it seemed difficult to plan that around our interlocal agreements...because sometimes you're halfway through the year and you realize this isn't going so well and you need to share a resource real quick," said Casas.

McKinley pointed out that the select board could call a special town meeting if necessary.

"Do we have any kind of policy that guides or dictates our interlocal agreements?" asked Casas.

"State statute dictates how those are done, and in all of those interlocal agreements, they're done according to state statute and by our lawyer," said Bates. McKinley said that sharing department heads between Camden and Rockport has saved money and worked well.

Selectmen Doug Cole and Mark Kelley did not comment on the petition.

"To the folks who put the petition in: we heard you, it was a nice effort. I'm glad that 75 people thought about this situation to sign a petition and send it in and put it in front of us. I think that much of what they proposed makes sense," said McKinley.

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