Sue Varney has her job back and assessing can return to normal in Wiscasset.
The vote to fund Varney's position as assessors' agent was nearly unanimous among the 157 residents who turned out at Wiscasset Middle School on October 8.
After approving the $57,939 to restore Varney's job and other assessing department costs, voters tossed out proposed funding of Varney's severance package; they also dismissed a proposal that would have raised $20,000 for legal costs that officials said the town would no longer face.
Varney received several minutes of hugs and well wishes from residents following the vote. Asked how she felt about what happened there that night, Varney said, “Confused, but OK.”
Varney confirmed she will accept her job back.
Selectmen's Chairman Ed Polewarczyk had been openly concerned in recent weeks about how the board would handle assessing duties, after voters twice rejected that department's budget.
Following Tuesday's vote, Polewarczyk said, “I was really pretty surprised at the way it went.”
“I was ready to accept whatever they decided ... and I was delighted the vote was so much in favor of what I thought was the right thing to do.”
Polewarczyk said he was also incredibly proud of voters for showing up for the meeting. “I was just pumped,” he said about the turnout that was better than he thought it might be.
Selectmen had only asked voters Tuesday for $16,000 in their anticipated training costs to do assessing duties.
But resident Judy Flanagan stood up and proposed bringing back Varney's job with the $57,939. Town officials predicted that would spare the town the proposed training and legal costs and Varney's $67,340 severance package.
“Let's raise the lesser amount and have an assessing department that's working,” Flanagan said.
Some budget committee members were unsure town officials’ predictions would bear out.
“I think it's dangerous ... to feel confident that that is the way it could shake out,” the committee's chairman Bob Blagden said.
Why would anyone go back to work when they can be paid to stay home, committee member Bill Barnes asked.
But Town Manager Laurie Smith said it was her understanding Varney wanted to return.
The wide vote for the $57,939 spurred applause and one resident's “Yay.”
In an earlier item during the meeting, voters changed the due dates for semi-annual tax payments to December 6, 2013 and April 25, 2014.
Tax bills will likely go out within a few weeks, Smith said.
“I'm pleased that the assessing department can get back to normal,” Smith said after the vote.
The budget committee had opposed the assessing budget both times at the polls, in June and September; members had argued it should be lower. Selectmen said what may have looked like a 17-percent raise for Varney really came to 2.5 percent with her contract concessions factored in.