By Jesse Scardina
December 22. 2014 9:27PM
KITTERY, Maine — The Town Council decided during its workshop Monday night to set up a subcommittee to revise the town’s ordinance for board and committee appointments.
Concerns with the appointment process, including how applicants are chosen for volunteer-based boards — whether it’s through first-come, first-serve or through an interview and approval process — was a main topic of discussion, as was whether applicants should fill out separate applications if interested in more than one board and whose responsibility it was — the town officials or interested residents — to let the town know whether he or she is still interested in a position after a prolonged period of time.
“My concern if we start looking at experience and qualifications for citizen-volunteer boards — why are we determining whose qualifications are better,” said council Chairman Jeffrey Thomson. “It starts to smell of elitism.”
Vice Chairman Russell White sympathized with both sides of that issue, ultimately saying its best for volunteer boards and committees to have a nice balance of qualified personnel and curious, motivated residents.
“It provides a variety of perspectives,” White said. “Agree in one sense with the randomness (of first-come, first-serve), but when writing ordinances and stuff like that, it’s nice having someone with experience.”
Councilor Charles Denault agreed with the sentiment that the most qualified applicant should be considered for the open position regardless of where in the applicant list he or she may be.
“Doing it that way may single out experience,” Denault said. “But sometimes you have to.”
Another sticking point was separating the appointment processes of the Planning Board and the Board of Appeals from the other boards and committees, as those two boards are more active than the others.
Councilor Judith Spiller said that basing a volunteer position on experience and qualification is a disservice to those willing to sacrifice their time for the town, yet did say that qualification is important for the Planning Board and Board of Appeals.
“If someone is willing and wants to take the time to serve,” Spiller said, “we should encourage that. But the other two boards, it may be better to look at the candidacy.”
As it currently operates, any resident interested in sitting on a board or committee fills out an application and identifies, if applicable, his or her top three choices on where to serve. Most councilors and Town Clerk Maryann Place saw that as something that should change, as it would help ease the process of identifying who is interested in serving on what board.
“I think that will help make this an easier, cleaner process,” Place said.
Councilor Kenneth Lemont believed that language should also be included in the ordinance that puts the burden on the town to reach out to those on the applicant lists to see if he or she is still interested in serving if a position were to open, thus keeping an updated list of applicants.
“It shouldn’t be the responsibility of the resident who is trying to volunteer to reach out to us,” Lemont said.
At the end of the 45-minute workshop that preceded the regularly scheduled council meeting, Thomson set up a working group to further vet the ordinance update that consists of Place, White, Denault, Lemont, Town Manager Nancy Colbert Puff and two board or committee chairs that will be selected by Colbert Puff. Thomson asked the working group to report back to the council in roughly six weeks.
“We’re doing a disservice to the boards and those that apply by prolonging this process any more,” Denault said.
During the council’s meeting, resident Jim Forbes spoke during the public comment session, expressing his opinion that the town should select those that are the most qualified to serve on the town’s boards and committees.
“I hope you consider the boards and committees in town important and that you select the best possible candidate and not just the first one on the list,” Forbes said.
In Other News
At the council meeting, the town moved to ratify and sign a three-year labor contract from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2017 for police department dispatchers and the administrative, clerical and technical units.
“The town manager was charged with making progress in these contracts and she has,” Thomson said. “This set the town up in a better direction moving forward, while still being fair to those that work in the community.”
The contract was approved by a 5-1 vote, with Councilor Frank Dennett voting no and Councilor Jeffrey Pelletier absent.
Former town councilor Jeffery Brake was appointed to the Board of Appeals.