Town meeting

Jackson lowers late tax penalty, raises pay for selectmen

Political newcomer Bryan Menard elected in close race
By Ethan Andrews | Mar 18, 2017
Photo by: Ethan Andrews Bryan Menard, center, casts a ballot in the selectman's race he would go on to win by two votes.

Jackson — Voters at the annual town meeting March 18 lowered the penalty for late payment of taxes, put the brakes on a proposal by selectmen to double their own salaries, elected a new selectman in a close race, and bagged a recycling representative for free.

About a tenth of the town's 500-plus residents attended, which is about half the turnout of several years back when residents divided over how to regulate commercial wind energy development.

On Saturday, the closest thing to drama was Bryan Menard's narrow victory over Bruce Littlefield for the third selectman's seat, 28-26. The small crowd drew a collective gasp when the results were read.

Menard will replace one-term Selectman Jim Dickson, who did not run for re-election. Speaking after the vote, Menard, who will be serving in elected office for the first time, said he has lived in Jackson nearly 20 years and figured he would want to serve as selectman eventually. He labeled himself a fan of Dickson's work on the board and said he hopes to continue in a similar spirit.

"The last three years has been drama-free around here," Menard said. "I don't really have an agenda but to make this town run as smoothly as it can."

Selectmen's pay will increase in the coming year, but not as much as it would have under their own proposal, which would have doubled salaries for veteran selectmen and more than doubled those of newer officers. Second selectman Joe Laliberte, whose salary would have risen from $3,000 to $6,000 under the proposal, said Jackson selectmen have not seen a raise in many years and are paid less than their peers in similarly sized towns.

Voters approved bumping the first year salary from $1,500 to $2,000, second year from $2,000 to $3,000, and third year from $3,000 to $4,000.

Town officers were mostly re-elected to their respective positions, some begrudgingly so. Regional School Unit 3 representative Lisa Cooley agreed to serve another term but said she has become disenchanted with public education and expressed hope that a younger, more enthusiastic person would come forward to serve on the school board.

EMA Director Donald Nickerson Jr., who wasn't at the town meeting, expressed reservations through his father, Fire Chief Donald Nickerson Sr., about serving another term. Voters voiced no reservations about re-electing him.

David McDaniel surprised his fellow voters by offering to serve as the town's representative to Unity Area Regional Recycling Center and waiving the $400 stipend recommended by selectmen. There was a brief discussion about whether McDaniel's gesture would hurt the chances of the next representative getting paid, but voters took no action on that point.

The town's 7-percent interest rate for late payment of property taxes was dropped to 5 percent after one resident argued that families who can't afford to pay their taxes can't afford 7 percent on top of it.

Voters gave a total of $2,587 to eight outside groups, adding $100 each to amounts recommended by selectmen for The Game Loft and Mid Coast Community Action.

They also approved an 18-year contract with Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. for disposal of the town's solid waste, and approved a contractual option to recoup $951 of equity Jackson holds in the PERC's Orrington plant. The decision to continue with PERC represents a break from longtime bargaining agent Municipal Review Committee, which is spearheading a move with other towns to the new Fiberight facility, which is scheduled to open in Hampden in 2018.

Selectman John Work noted that MRC grew Jackson's equity exponentially over the years to a sum of $25,000 or more. He questioned whether the town would be able to recoup that larger piece.

Regional School Unit 3 representative Lisa Cooley talks to residents at the annual town meeting, March 18. Cooley accepted another term on the board but expressed hope that someone would take over her post next time around. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
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