Many refuse to reapply for committee work

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

A major shakeup in Bridgton town committee membership is shaping up, following Friday’s deadline for returning applications for reappointment under a new town policy.

Two key town committees are left with only one member, in what amounts to a mass resignation of all but one of those currently serving on the Comprehensive Plan Committee and the Wastewater Committee. By declining to turn in their reappointment applications, as required by selectmen, a total of 15 residents on five town committees have effectively given up their volunteer service to the town.

Their reason, as outlined in a protest memo they signed and delivered to the Bridgton Municipal Complex, is that they believe the Bridgton Board of Selectmen established the new reappointment policy in an attempt to “recall the members and rewrite the charges of all town committees,” a charge three of the five selectmen strongly refuted at their Dec. 11 meeting. Most of the non-returning members feel insulted that they would be required to reapply each year, and believe that selectmen established the policy because they feel threatened “by those accepting and working to fulfill the obligations of responsibility of their charge.” Comprehensive Plan Committee members who did not return their applications for annual reappointment are Chairman Bob Wiser, Glen “Bear” Zaidman, Lucia Terry, Dick Danis, Chuck Renneker, Ray Turner and Fred Packard — leaving only Greg Watkins, who did reapply by the Dec. 21 deadline. Turner and Packard have not attended meetings in the past several months, however, and the CPC had asked the board to have them removed from the committee.

Wastewater Committee members who did not return their applications are Mark Hatch, Chris McDaniel, Zaidman and Ken Brown — leaving Ray Turner as the only member who returned an application.

The Community Development Committee fared much better. Even though all but one of its members signed the protest memo, all but two of them met the deadline for returning their applications. Those who did not return applications were Mark Lopez and Chuck Renneker. Those who did submit applications were Mike Tarantino, Dee Miller, Dave Crowell, Evan Miller, Jim Mains Jr. and Ken Murphy.

On the Pondicherry Park Committee, Ken Ribas, who signed the protest memo, followed through by not returning an application. The only other member currently, Brian Cushing, did return an application.

Members of the Investment, Budget Advisory, Recycling and Baseball/Softball Committees did not participate in signing the protest memo. However, two members of the Recycling Committee listed on the town’s website — Sandy Field and Vincent Cilberto — did not submit an application, leaving four members who did: Heather Rorer, Mahlon Johnson, Al Burke and Nancy Donovn.

For reasons not immediately apparent, neither the Fire Protection or Fireworks Committees were listed on the spreadsheet prepared after the Dec. 21 deadline by Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz. Berkowitz was on vacation and unavailable for comment.

Reached by phone Friday, Selectmen Chairman Paul Hoyt said he was disappointed with the way things worked out. “It’s really a shame it’s come to this,” he said. He was especially sorry to see the collapse of the CPC, whose members have met weekly for most of 17 months to update the Comprehensive Plan and look at new design standards for the Route 302 corridor.

“It’s sad to see the loss of all the energy, knowledge and all the hard work” the CPC has generated for the town. But because the board made it clear, after debating the issue, that it would hold firm on the reappointment policy, those who chose not to honor its requirements “have basically said I don’t want to continue” as a committee member, he said.

All their hard work would not be in vain, however, said Hoyt, because the CPC has basically completed its revisions to the plan and the rest of the work could be handled by Anne Krieg, the town’s director of planning, economic and community development. That may mean that a townwide vote on the plan would need to be put off until November, instead of June as planned.

His intent over the past two months of discussions about committees and charges was to standardize the process for maintaining town-appointed committees, in order to have clearly-defined missions and sunset provisions and ensure their membership remains at established levels. “I couldn’t even imagine that this is where it was going to end up,” Hoyt said.

For his part, Zaidman, who was active on two town committees, is still hoping the board will consider tabling final action on the appointments Jan. 8 so that everyone can “all take a deep breath, then sit down for a conversation with all parties and the public.”

As it is, said Zaidman, the strong negative reaction to the reappointment policy by so many should provide reason enough for the board to make an extra effort at improving their communication with the public. If not, “so be it,” he said, adding that he will stand by his decision not to serve on any town committee.

“The way they did this was just not right.”

 

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