Calais City Council Ties Up Loose Ends

By Gwen Clark

Jack Monachan was presented with a certificate by Mayor Marianne Moore on behalf of the Calais City Council, for his 16 plus years of service as Volunteer Crossing Guard on Garfield Street for the Calais Elementary School Children. (Photo by Gwen Clark).

The Calais City Council held their only  meeting for December last Thursday evening December 19th with a very full agenda.   Business owner of South of the Border ‘Tex’ addressed the board with a concern with several issues that he had as a local business owner.  He had been denied being placed on the City Council Agenda after making several requests over the past four to five months, He had been attempting to make requests and abide by the rules and regulations put forth by the city in establishing his businesses in the community but felt that he had been running into premeditated road blocks placed by city personnel on every level.   He stated that it has cost him money each time to the point where he has acquired legal council to represent him in the future.  He claims that his business has been stalked by the local law enforcement, that hours are spent driving past or parking directly across from his business.  A request was made for a dumpster to be placed on the sidewalk for a total of three days minimum and he  was denied due to supposed safety issues.  Attorney Fletcher advised the Council not to  enter into further discussion with the him due to the possibility of forthcoming litigations.  

Tex stated:  “As a business man, I’m tired of fighting the system here because it’s not working!”  

Mayor Moore interjected numerous times,  saying “The sheet that we signed did not have those specific details on it” Tex held the signed paper  with those details on it in his hand at the meeting.   

The city is no stranger to legal issues. During the past several years there are several cases still in litigation, one filed against the Calais Police Department on behalf of a former prisoner by the Maine Civil Liberties Union just this past June, the former AOS has a legal issue as well as the former Superintendent of the AOS from which Calais withdrew.   

Councilor Rogers interjected that “If at anytime you make a request to be placed on the agenda and City Manager Barnes or Mayor Moore does not follow through with it, please let a City Councilor know as we will make sure you get on that agenda.”  

Those words were reiterated by Councilors Howard and Nixon.

A special recognition and presentation started the meeting when Jack Monaghan was presented with a certificate and thanked by the City of Calais for his long volunteer service as a crossing guard for the elementary students attending Calais Elementary School.   Jack held his position in front of his home on Garfield Street assuring the safety of children in crossing the street to attend school each day for 16 years and 2 months. Jack shared a couple of comical stories during his volunteering.

The Consent Agenda was accepted as presented which included approval of the previous minutes, Treasurers warrants for the City through December 18, 2013.  Treasurers Warrants for the School through December 18, 2013, Treasurers warrants for Water through December 18, 2013,  Monthly Department reports were also accepted and the Case Fund in the amount of $225.00.  A  Public Hearing was held open to questions concerning  the General Assistance ordinance appendices to which there were no questions and this was passed as well.   

 The City Managers Report included:  A request from the Baileyville Town Manager and the Town Council  to set a date for a second meeting with the City Manager and the Calais City Council was discussed and a tentative meeting date for January 30, 2014 at 5:30 PM. The assembly room at Washington County Community College was chosen.  The date will be sent to Baileyville  for approval.  It will be open to the public as well.    The closing of the city offices during the day before Christmas at noon was decided.  Insurance rates have been set at a 4% increase for the  city employees, a rate of 8% had been budgeted and so there will be a savings in the current  budget.   Write offs have not been included in recent meetings and will be included in the first meeting in January but write-offs in the ambulance service have been dismissed in the Court due to inability to pay but can still be sent to collections. It will cost the City money to return them to the Courts.  Those bills will be brought before the Council at the next meeting for write-offs as well.  The City Manager wants to research other collection agencies before the bills are sent out for a collection since the Thomas Agency has not been able to effectively collect these debts.  The Department of Environment has contacted the City concerning the water level at Nashs’  Lake recently.  

Diane Barnes stated:  “It appears that we are going to have to come up with a lake management plan  for the wing dam on the Lake.”   

Councilor Artie Mingo:  “I kind of know what’s going on out there since I live on the lake. Over the last  15 years the water on Nash’s Lake has been dropping and it has been dropping very noticeably to the point where most people on the northeast side of the lake have trouble getting in to the docks, like never before especially over the past three or four years , hitting rocks, stumps, losing props, areas where we used to be able to water ski you can’t water ski anymore.  What’s happened ... is one of the wing dams on the left side has been breached  over the years and it has been breached by  people who have done it to give more access to other areas on Nash’s Lake.  And so there was a group of camp owners out there last spring, and they tried to fill in the breached area to raise the level of the water in order to make it a safe area for everyone on the lake.  In constructing that it ended up in a hundred year rain situation  and Nash’s Lake stayed high for a long period of time then normal and it brought attention to some of the other camp owners about why is the water level so high and it was noticed some of the work that was done on the breached dam.  Obviously whenever there is a change somebody is going to complain  and a couple of people on the lake have complained and called DEP and that’s how the DEP called the City of Calais, am I correct Jim?”  

“There is another issue where there are power lines under water in the Lake that were a concern to camp owners as well when the water level is low.  I’ve done some research myself and you can correct or repair refurbish any damage that has been done by nature up to 50%  and anything over 50% you need a permit.  Basically put back what was originally there.”  

Councilor Billy Howard inquired:  “How many complaints were there?”  

Barnes had two and Jim Porter had four over the summer. There are about fifty camps out there.  

Marianne Moore:  “Now we’ve been contacted by DEP thats the worst thing.”  

Barnes:  “And we’re responsible for the actions of what anybody does to that, as to the impact to the resources.  But DEP didn’t come on sight to inspect that they just took the complaint and sent us the E-mail.  They have not been on sight to look at the level.”  After more discussion it was decided to wait until spring to see what effect the rains and water levels would be and take any needed action from that point.

There were no Committee Reports from finance, property, public safety,  or public works.  The Economic Community Development Committee: Jim Porter said that the Website can have things added it is functioning.    Public input on the agenda items, an inquiry as to what the  Calais Recreation Association consisted of.  

Moore:  “That is a volunteer  association like the Friends of the Library only they are like the friends of the Rec Department.”  City Attorney David Fletcher added:  “It was set up  so it that it was a 501C3  so that it qualifies for charitable contributions and grants that don’t necessarily go to the municipality so that allows spenders two ways.”

Under New Business: A free household trash disposal day  is in place for December 28th. If there is inclement weather, it will be changed to January 4th.    The Police Department was approved a request to use CIP funds to pay for bullet proof vests for police  officers and it will equip all officers with them.   Councilor Alan Dwelley motioned, Councilor Ann Nixon  seconded and it was approved unanimously.   The Maine Department of Transportation/FHA will replace and place necessary traffic signs with 90% funding and the city paying the remainder for stop, warning etc.   Nixon made the motion, Howard seconded, all approved.  The School Department Budget Schedule established by Superintendent Laser  was accepted with the exception that the budget referendum being held along with the City Budget in June.  The Fire Department  requested the use of CIP funds for purchase of protective clothing.  Mingo made the motion and Dwelley seconded all in approval.   Acceptance of the Maine Health Access Foundation Grant was unanimous .  Public Works Roads requested a CIP withdrawal for the continued paving program, Dwelley motioned and Parks seconded, all in favor.  Tax and sewer acquired property was also approved as giving owners a chance to pay and redeem the property with an additional  thirty day notice.  A street light request was submitted  by Dale Earle for an additional street light on St. Croix Drive was passed with the motion made by Howard and seconded by Rogers.  Ambulance bill and estate offer in re-payement was accepted.   The Water Department Budget was explained and discussed  in the amount of $649,000 which is drop of  $12,000 from the 2013 budget.  It was passed unanimously after a motion by Dwelley and second by Mingo.   

The Award of the following bids for City acquired property went as follows;  1993 GMC Isuzu Truck to Eddie Mooreside in the amount of $2,551, 1998 Dodge Ram Pick up truck to Harry Smith for $1127.07, 2 Bloggett Pizza Ovens to Dianne McLaughlin for $1,520 and 18 Invacare Oxygen Concentrators to Harry Smith for $15.07, two other bids for an Amitrol Boiler Mate and an Onan Cummings Generator were rejected and re-bid out again.  The approval of the establishing a Schoodic Sculpture Park Donation Account for donations for the park that will be surrounding the sculpture was accepted.   Discussion regarding the current library hours had been requested bu Councilor Nixon in order to consider having the library open during Saturdays in order to make the facility more easily accessible to people during their non working  and school time off hours.  With two full time and one part time staffers consideration will be taken to see what  re-scheduling can be done.  The topic of the removal of the lattice work on the downtown fountain was also discussed and possibly will be removed in the spring.     Councilor Rogers brought up the snow plowing and salt and sanding at the schools.  The inquiry as to why the school budget was financially responsible for plowing and salting of the schools when they are are a part of the city.  They have in the past  been billed by the City for the services.    

Mayor Moore:  “We don’t charge for the schools, why don’t we let Skeet answer that question.”   The plowing is not charged to the schools because it is usually a swipe through and limited in nature but the City has been charging the schools for the salting and snow removal.   

Rogers:  “The schools are part of the City and so it doesn’t make sense to me that we are charging the schools.”    

Attorney Fletcher suggested that it may be something that the accountants were doing and maybe should be checked into.   The Municipal Budget was discussed and within that  context  Councilor Howard asked if each department were staying within their allotted budget and if there was consideration for reinstating the School CIP at some point.  

Howard:  “We need to hold every Department to what we approved, there should be no money outside of those line items without our approval that should be spent. I would like to see a couple of proposals for the money being placed back into the CIP for the schools  without raising taxes.”    A bankruptcy settlement offer from Ames Department Store after the city had written off the debt was accepted  as well.  

Christmas wishes were extended from all of the Council members in ending the meeting before entering into executive session.