Naples board hears legal counsel bids

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Local selectmen heard the presentations of two law firms that had placed bids to be the legal counsel for the Town of Naples.

Earlier in the year, the Naples Board of Selectmen had talked about it, and decided to open up bids for its legal counsel contract.

Once those bid proposals had been submitted, the selectmen decided to schedule presentations of two law firms that might be able to fit the needs of the town.

A list of the specific needs of the town was recapped by the Chairman Jim Grattelo on Sept 18, prior to the workshop, which started at 6 p.m.

“As part of the presentation, we would like to hear about the firm and some of the towns you represent,” he said.

“We are a growing town and we are a small town. We don’t want to be a small fish in a big sea,” Grattelo said.

Land use, shoreland zoning and lakes issues will need to be addressed, Grattelo said. As a town with a lot of lakes, there are issues specific to a town with public and private water access.

The Town of Naples has numerous ordinances that need to be updated, too; and the townspeople have set aside money to pay an ordinance consultant to help the town tackle that job, Grattelo said.

Naples has experienced growth in its business sector and a healthy building permit season so planning for future growth is another priority, he said.

During the workshop, the selectmen listened to the presentations from the two professionals, each representing a different law firm that was competing for the contract with the Town of Naples.

Attorney Amy Tchao, of DrummondWoodsum Attorneys at Law, was first to speak.

Attorney Harry Center II, with Woodman Edmands Danylik Austin Smith & Jacques, P.A., spoke second.

DrummondWoodsum is a 70-person law firm, which represents about a dozen towns in Maine including Harrison and Bridgton, according to Attorney Tchao. DrummondWoodsum represents far fewer towns than other firms of the same size, she said.

“In many ways, our municipal practice is a boutique practice,” she said, later repeating that phrase.

“We can practice with a deep bench. We can call on people in our firm” for specific areas of expertise, Tchao said.

Some of those specific areas which Tchao mentioned include Shoreland Zoning enforcement, drafting a marijuana moratorium, and creating an interlocal milfoil-prevention agreement.

In fact, the “firm has had extensive experience with milfoil.” [Attorney]

Dick Spencer worked with [Lakes Environmental Association Director] Peter Lowell and others to get the Milfoil law passed in late 1990,” Tchao said.

She suggested form-based codes to address growth in the town. Those codes would not change the land use, but form-based codes would dictate the façade or appearance of a business building so that the town’s character is evident and continuous in the commercial districts.

DrummondWoodsum has, in the past, directly dealt with many of the issues near and dear to Naples’ residents, she said. Additionally, Drummond employees thought the town and the law firm were well-suited, she said.

“For the Town of Naples, when we got the RFP our firm wanted to bid for the work,” Tchao said. “It fits our town size, our type of practice.”

From the law firm of Woodman Edmund, which has about 18 lawyers on staff, Attorney Center said that the Town of Naples would get his undivided attention.

“I will be the primary person representing you,” he said. “You would be the only municipality I would be representing.”

Center also represents Saco’s sewer district, which is not affiliated with the municipality, he said.

Center is no stranger to municipal law.

“In ‘92, I was the city attorney for the City of Biddeford. I learned that municipal law in Biddeford is a blood sport. The first year, there was no town manager…and I attended every City Council meeting,” he said.

In Biddeford, the town attorney contract was revisited every two years, he said. “I served under four different mayors. Two of the last ones — their goal was to remove me.”

Center also represented the Town of Waterboro, which has a town manager style of government, he said.

He said he was very familiar with land use laws, and the firm would provide the resources the town needed “to handle anything that comes along.”

He understood the concerns of residents and town officials about establishing a marijuana moratorium. His firm could draft a moratorium to guide how the retail industry develops, he said.

“There are all kinds of new issues with respect to the marijuana issue,” he said.

Also, the Town of Naples’ municipal ordinances should comply with State of Maine Ordinances. That includes adopting a code for expanding structures in the Shoreland Zone, he said.

“I cannot compliment DrummondWoodsum enough. Hopefully, you will have a difficult decision between their firm and ours,” Center said at the beginning of his presentation.

The board withheld any comment about the legal firm bid or the presentations except that it would make a decision in two weeks.

The board’s next regular meeting is Monday, Oct. 2.

To view the presentations, go to Lake Region Television’s webpage, and click on Naples Selectboard Workshop 9-18-2017. Residents may also check the viewing schedule for Cable TV.

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