Casco board on ground floor with town manager hiring

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — Doesn’t it always happen that way?

When things are in the planning stages, few people participate or even offer opinions. But, if someone does not like the outcome, that is when they speak out.

No one showed up to the Casco Board of Selectmen’s public hearing to get input on the hiring of new town manager.

In fact, the public hearing ended up being a discussion between the selectmen. Later, a few residents offered ideas but those people came to the meeting to speak on other issues during public participation.

At one point, Selectman Grant Plummer was talking about questions that need to be answered before the selectmen could zone in on what the new town manager will be asked to do. As he talked, he expressed his discouragement about the low turnout for the hearing.

“We have had this meeting for the public, this public hearing, and we have little or no interest from the public telling us” what they would like to see in a town manager, Plummer said. “My personal experience with the public is that you don’t hear anything from them until…”

Selectman Mary-Vienessa Fernandes finished his sentence, saying, “Until the decision has been made.”

The board or possibly a hiring committee will be making the decision months before June 2019, which is the date current Casco Town Manager Dave Morton hopes to retire after 40 years as town manager.

Morton was not present at Tuesday’s meeting.

Earlier in the discussion, Chairman Holly Hancock told the board that David Barrett, the director of Personnel Services and Labor Relations with the Maine Municipal Association (MMA), would be meeting with the board on Nov. 13.

Throughout the discussion, board members said they felt that Barrett will shed light on the hiring process. Barrett will be able to inform the board what the candidate pool might look like.

Hancock said the town manager pay range is information that the Casco Finance Committee will need prior to starting the budget process this winter. The board did talk about items impacting the budget — it was one of Plummer’s primary concerns.

One certain change during the 2019 budget cycle will be sharing services, such as animal control, with other towns.

“Do we consider hiring a town manager who can help us with this next step,” Plummer asked, referring to shared services.

“For those who don’t know our current town manager is the road commissioner. That was 40 years ago in a small town. That is the struggle that we are working through — how to handle it. Hopefully, Mr. Barrett can help us to handle that,” Plummer said.

“We are talking about this one thing. But there are seven factors we are trying to figure out first,” he said. “The second position, the road commissioner, the facilities manager, is throwing the screw in the works.”

At the beginning of the discussion, Plummer brought up a couple points: the cost of Barrett’s services will be $5,500 and hiring a new town manager might be more costly than Morton’s current salary.

“It is going to become a numbers game for me,” Plummer said.

He said he wanted more information such as what is available in the budget, what Morton was paid, and what are the salaries of town manager in comparable towns.

Plummer mentioned it is possible the pay will be higher to attract more candidates, making the second vacant position of road commissioner unaffordable for the town.

Thomas Peaslee spoke.

“We are probably going to have to pay the new town manager more than the current one. In this market, that is what we are going to pay. I think this position is going to be more” money, Peaslee said.

Selectman Calvin Nutting said he disagreed with any logic in removing the road commissioner duties from the new town manager job plus upping the pay.

“We cannot take duties away and pay him more,” he said.

Nutting continued.

“I question whether we need the second position right off,” he said. “What other town hires somebody, takes duties away from them, and pays them more?”

Hancock said, “It is the employment market.”

She said Barrett will provide the board with more information.

“MMA that is what we are paying them for: A little background research of what the market looks like,” Hancock said.

Regarding the $5,500 fee for MMA’s services in helping with the town manager hiring process, Plummer asked “where will the money come from?”

Nutting said, “I wasn’t aware we have to pay for this. I thought it was part of our membership.”

Plummer said, “As a member of MMA, you wonder what services are included. Where does the $5,500 in our current budget come from?

Plummer’s question remained unanswered.

Selectman Fernandes touched on the topic of a hiring subcommittee. She asked if the entire board would be involved in the entire hiring process from start to finish, or if a committee would be formed.

Barrett is scheduled to be on the agenda of the Nov. 13 meeting.

According to MMA’s proposal, “The purpose of this meeting will be to obtain a consensus of the board’s priorities regarding the qualifications, skills and experience to be looked for in potential candidates. This information is central to the selection process and is used in narrowing down the field of candidates.”

Hancock said, “I am anxious to have this meeting with Dave Barrett. We are the people who hire the town manager.”

Peaslee agreed.

“That meeting may answer a lot of the questions we have,” he said.

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