Town declines to extend, community development director let go

Audrey Knight

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Audrey Knight’s tenure as Bridgton’s community development director was a short one.

She was let go Tuesday (Dec. 19). The News was unable to reach Knight for comment at press time Wednesday (Dec. 20).

Initially, Knight’s name appeared on the 2018 annual appointment list for one-year terms to be presented to Bridgton selectmen Tuesday night for approval. However, a revised list was presented to The News at the start of the meeting, and Knight’s name was no longer on the list. The position was identified as “vacant.”

When Town Manager Robert Peabody was asked about the vacancy, he had no comment.

“It’s a personnel matter,” he said.

Board Chairman Greg Watkins verified that Knight’s employment had been terminated Tuesday. State law calls for a six-month probationary period to allow municipalities time to evaluate both performance and whether an employee is “the right fit,” Watkins explained.

“The probationary period allows the board to see where we are in respect to the position and where we are headed,” he said.

While Watkins would not elaborate as to any specifics regarding Knight’s performance since her hire in late June due to confidentiality rules, he pointed out that since selectmen do not meet again until January, the town manager would assume some of the community development responsibilities, such as streetscape work, for the time being. Watkins expects selectmen to discuss what happens next with the position at the Jan. 9 meeting.

In other selectmen’s meeting notes:

Water leak found. For several days, the Bridgton Water District was on a hunt — trying to locate a major leak in a water line. Finally Tuesday, BWD found the break — it was on Willett Road, which left only Central Maine Power and the Town Garage without water.

Peabody reported that tanker trucks dumped water into the system to keep hydrant service available. Fire officials were made aware of the water problem, and instructed only to use hydrants on an emergency basis.

BWD workers were repairing the pipe Wednesday. Once fixed, chlorine would be added to the system and testing done, Peabody said.

Nice gesture. The granite stones, which once lined one side of the Moose Pond Causeway, hold special meaning to some people.

Take longtime music teacher Eunice Fitton, whose family operated a hardware store for over 40 years and rented several housekeeping cottages on Moose Pond.

When the stones were removed, the 94-year-old relished the idea of placing two of them near a flagpole at her summer residence on the pond.

Friend Incy Muir hoped to grant that wish by asking selectmen to waive the $350 purchase fee and gift the stones to Ms. Fitton.

“As a child, my family rented one of the cottages and then purchased it in 1966, which is how I came to know and love Bridgton. This is when I first met Eunice,” Muir said. “Eunice has told me that she remembers when the granite blocks were first installed on the Causeway…Having this little piece of history would mean so much to her.”

The town has 100 to 150 stones. Initially, Selectman Bob McHatton suggested that the town “loan” the stones to Ms. Fitton while she is alive, and seek their return upon her death. Officials ultimately decided to gift the stones, and would look at similar requests on a case-by-case basis.

Peabody pointed out to Muir that state law would prohibit the town from using public funds to deliver the stones. Private pickup and delivery arrangements would need to be made.

Selectman Bob Murphy wondered what might happen if the Maine Department of Transportation decided to seek the return of the stones to use along the roadway, instead of the current guardrails.

Peabody simply responded, “highly unlikely.” In fact, he feels Bridgton is fortunate that it was able to keep one side of Route 302 lined with the granite stones since MDOT considers those rocks as “fixed deadly objects” and would like to eliminate them.

New carnival events? Dan Harden says the Chamber of Commerce might have a few new Winter Carnival events up its sleeves for Feb. 17.

Harden, who will assume the Chamber presidency in 2018, sought and received board approval to use Highland Lake Beach area. While the ice bar operated by Campfire Grille will return, Harden said new events such as a 3K or 5K snowshoe race and scenic views of the lake and beyond aboard a tethered balloon are under consideration.

Next meetings: Selectmen will hold a workshop meeting with Bridgton’s Young Professionals on Thursday, Jan. 4 regarding a proposed plan to renovate the Highland Lake Beach area parking lot. Officials were scheduled to discuss the Perley Mills Park proposal, but that item has been pulled.

Selectmen hope to access a forestry plan that the Town of Denmark has regarding the 500-acre tract. Denmark would like to discontinue paying taxes on the land to Bridgton, which was gifted by Loon Echo Land Trust.

Selectman Bear Zaidman noted that the plan would identify how the woodlot has been managed and possible current harvesting yields in future years. Bridgton could spend money to have a forester look over the property and let officials know what the harvest projection might be. However, some selectmen dislike the idea of Bridgton having to assume that expense, believing if the Town of Denmark wishes to dispose its interest in the property, it should either share management information and/or pay a forester.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting is Jan. 9 at 5 p.m.

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