Special City Council Meeting Held

By Gwen Clark

The Calais City Council held a Special meeting on Tuesday Sept. 10.  A little over a hundred people were in attendance at this such meeting many having to stand just inside and along the walls of the room.  

Mayor Moore abruptly began the meeting with the announcement:  “ As a reminder I will say that this is not a public hearing, while I did allow public comment at last week’s meeting. We really did appreciate your input and your feed back during that meeting  and with that said this week  I must ask the audience to bear with us and refrain from commenting  as we work on the task at hand and that’s determining  how much to set the school budget in preparation for the next referendum, so as a reminder when we ended the last meeting we were discussing  the possibility of being able to  reallocate funds from our Capital Improvement Program or Capital Improvement Projects and we asked Diane to meet with her Department Heads to review the list that had been prepared  and at this time I going to turn this over to Diane and see what the results were.”    

City Manager Diane Barnes stated that she “Had met with each Department Head and went over the line items budget and met with the Recreation Director twice due to issues with the pool that needed to be addressed.”  

Each department Head then proceeded by turns on explaining their needs and projected uses for each amount that had been placed in the Reserve Fund Balance for the Departments.

Each Department had the following:   

Cemetery:  Storage garage, one ton truck with Dump body, office siding, Grave stone maintenance, and Riding Lawn Tractor ending balance $36,388.80.  

Fire Department:  SCBA, protective clothing, hose, fire fighting equipment, fire fighting apparatus-trucks, side entrance canopy, Garage (4 Bay), Red Beach station maintenance, Red Beach Station roof, ending balance $117,617.29.

Recreation Department:  Community Center roof, softball Field Fencing, window replacement, Tennis Court re-surfacing, playground equipment, ie skating rink, Step repair/replacement, ADA pool compliance, Old Pool house roof/recreation truck $10,559.53.

Police Department:  bullet proof vests, cruiser, $35,474.69,  

Public Works Department:  wrist/ditching bucket backhoe, sign post driver, storage building, paving program, rip rap walkway, Brooks, Price, Garfield SW/curb $127,162.20.

Transfer Station:  Concrete retaining Walls, bin covers $19,859.59.  Administration:  City Building electrical, computer equipment, Telephone System, Plumbing, Maintenance, legal Services, School: Books, School: Maintenance, City Building video/ alarm, $124,922.51.

Library Department:  Photo Copier, $600.

North Street Building:  Boiler, DOL Safety Compliance, PW Director Office, building addition, culvert protection, plumbing  $28,438.88  Debt:  PW truck replacement,  PW loader:  $116,229.38  Capital equipment reserve $27,621.95

The Recreation Director stressed that the pool in order to re-open next year will need major work. Mike’s Pool Service of Bangor had sent a representative in to survey the pool. He stated that there were issues that needed immediate attention and other things were found that would sooner, rather then later, have to be replaced, “I hate to throw this out but just in passing he said that if he were to come in and do it right he was looking at some where around $150,000.”  

Councilor Howard asked:  “What if we did the $40,000 out of the CIP. I know we have two positions out for re-hire, or are going to have anyway, what if we didn’t fill them that’s almost another $80,000 there?”    

Barnes:  “What two positions?”  

Howard:  “Well there’s one fire, one police right?”  

Barnes:  “The fire has already been filled.  That will save in shifts on over time.  So we had to fill that shift.”  

Fire Chief:  “The Fire Department shift has been filled because by not filling it, it would have been overtime.”

Councilor Bernardini:  “This has been a long road and we’re all going down it together. Umm, I would like to make a motion  that we set the School Budget at $8,379,834.63, the same as the previous referendum. It’s not popular but we raised taxes to help fill the hole.” 

Howard:  “I see this as a multiple year problem and we have to do some restructuring at some point.”   

Bernardini:  “We as the entire City?  The School Department included?”   

Howard:  “They’re going to be a part of it too, they’re going down this road too.”  

Councilor Mingo:  “Some of the expenses for the schools were out of their hands  and out of  our hands Chris,  probably about $500,000 of that, that’s also including leaving the AOS.”   

Bernardini:  “The AOS as far as I’m concerned is a separate animal. We don’t know how much it was going to cost to get out of the AOS.”   

Mingo:  “But we’ve had estimates of $160,000.”   

Bernardini:  “Okay, but that’s a one time cost, that’s like some of these CIP things.”   

Current information is that this $160,000 per year is the cost for a new full time Superintendent position and their office staff and equipment, most of those monies will be carried over as salaries each year.  The School Department is currently is on the receiving  end of a law suit that has been filed by the AOS that they have withdrawn from.   Councilor Dwelley seconded the motion that was put forth by Bernardini.  

Under the discussion Councilor Parks requested:  “Is there a possibility  to see something, that, I know that most of the folks here tonight are on one side of the issue and I understand that and I feel for it.  I know I got a lot of comments after the last poll that they said I voted no because I thought it was too much and it goes both ways. Some said they voted no because they didn’t think it was enough.  How do you find out? Can we do an exit poll? If we are going to do that number again, could you do an exit poll to figure out why people are voting the way they’re voting?”  

Mayor Moore: “David Fletcher said we could, I mean that would be something that could be done.”  

Howard:  “If you did that then there should be something in there stating if you favor raising taxes or not?  Most people I’ve talked to were not in favor of raising taxes at all but this budget cut should have been fair amongst the whole city.  They’re not picking sides they’re just saying it should have been fair that’s all.  They’re not favoring one over the other. The fact is rather its this year or next year cuts are coming, everyone needs to face those facts , that’s all there is to it. We can’t  keep going the way we’re going.”  

Mingo:  “We don’t have the population, we don’t have the structure here anymore. How many buildings have been torn down here Chris before new ones have been built?  What kind of tax base are we creating here? We’re spending money that we don’t have.”

Dwelley:  “We are seeing some growth in Calais. I think its fool hardy of us to go forward robbing  our CIP when we know we’re going to have some expenses coming up that we budgeted for.”  

Mingo and Howard both stated that they disagreed with what Dwelley was saying.  

Howard: “If it wasn’t for that Canadian dollar we’d be in a world of trouble.”  

Bernardini:  “I agree and they’re going to come here whether the dollar is good or bad.”  Bernardini’s motion failed to pass.     

Councilor Nixon proposed a motion  for use of $66,000 from CIP funds and reassign them to the schools.  That motion was tabled due to lack of a second and Mingo moved proposing an amount of $131,000, Howard seconded it and the vote failed with Parks, Bernardini, Dwelley and Mayor Moore opposed and Mingo, Howard and Nixon in favor.     

Discussion amongst the Council continued and Howard received applause from attendees when he suggested that: “ I didn’t push to have the tax bills sent out. We should have gotten the school budget straightened out before we even sent those out”  

Bernardini:  “If   you people out there can’t show a little respect towards your elected official. We’ve done our work.  I think it’s time the school committee did theirs.”  

The Council did however come up with an additional $50,000 from the CIPs for the Schools.  A referendum was decided and set that evening for August 24th but was later rescinded at the Thursday evening Council Meeting due to additional monies that the Superintendent of Schools had discovered after.