Wiscasset Selectmen

‘It’s going to be a mess’

New duties concern selectmen
Wed, 09/25/2013 - 8:30am

    Wiscasset selectmen are predicting a rocky transition as they take on the work of laid-off assessing agent Sue Varney.

    Board members on September 24 said they need training and that they may make mistakes along the way.

    Chairman Ed Polewarczyk said the duties will probably take more time per week than he first estimated. The work will come to about 60 hours, or 12 hours for each selectman, he said.

    A recent meeting he and Selectman Judy Colby had with Varney provided a better picture of what's involved, including the use of computer software.

    “I realized I could very easily cause great damage to records,” Polewarczyk said. “To me, this is serious.”

    Barring a turn of events with the union or with voters at a town meeting October 8, the board will take on a host of duties Varney did, including preparing the tax commitment.

    “We're going to foul it up and it's going to be a mess,” Selectman Pam Dunning said.

    Voters twice refused to fund this year's proposed assessing budget that included Varney's long-held job. (What some viewed as a 17-percent raise really amounted to 2.5 percent with Varney’s concessions, selectmen have said.)

    At Tuesday's meeting, selectmen finished the questions they'll pose to town meeting voters. The board is asking for $16,000 for the assessing department, expected to be used for training; $67,340 for Varney's severance package that was part of her contract; and $20,000 to add to the town's legal account.

    Legal costs could mount if voters refuse to pay the severance or if other union issues arise from handling Varney's former duties, board members said.

    Selectmen considered Polewarczyk's suggestion to ask voters a third time for Varney's salary, but this time with a smaller pay hike. That would have put the assessing budget at $70,648, but the proposal failed in a board vote.

    Any pay changes would also depend on the union's willingness to reopen the contract.

    Voters at the town meeting could still choose to add to the proposed $16,000 for the assessing budget, if they want to open the door for Varney to return at a different pay level or perhaps for a shortened year, selectmen said.

    Even a few weeks' pay for the assessing agent would help, Dunning said.

    In another question at town meeting, selectmen are proposing moving the date of a semi-annual tax payment from October 25 to December 6, buying the board extra time to commit taxes. No change is proposed for the spring payment's April 25 due date.

    The town meeting is set for 7 p.m., October 8, at Wiscasset Middle School.

    The Wiscasset Budget Committee will meet at 6 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 26 at the municipal building, to make its own recommendations on the votes residents face at town meeting.

    Bids in for pier work

    Selectmen Tuesday unsealed bids for rebuilding large parts of the recreational pier. Five offers came in with base bids ranging from Wyman & Simpson's $220,800 to Prock Marine's $168,995.

    Voters in 2012 approved $33,333 as the town's match to federal and state funding for the project, to address the pier's deterioration, Town Manager Laurie Smith said.

    Travis Pryor of Wright-Pierce, the town's engineering firm on the project, told selectmen the firm will review the bids and get back to the town with a recommendation.

    Susan Johns can be reached at 207-844-4633 or susanjohns@wiscassetnewspaper.com