Town manager takes responsibility for ordinance snafu

Some citizens concerned about impact of error on tank proposal
By Tanya Mitchell | Jul 24, 2012
Photo by: Tanya Mitchell Carmine Pecorelli, left, speaks to Searsport Selectman Aaron Fethke, far right, about his request on behalf of the Maine Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve that the town sign a statement of support for its employees who are also members of the armed services.

Searsport — "This is my error and I have corrected it."

That was the statement from Searsport Town Manager James Gillway at the regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen Tuesday, July 17.

Gillway was speaking about a recent mistake concerning voter-approved alterations to the town's site plan review ordinance, as he said he inadvertently added the new language to an older copy of the ordinance and not the active document. The specific change that was not included in the active ordinance, Gillway said, was the portion stating that the Planning Board had the right to either waive some requirements stated in the ordinance if the requirements do not apply to the proposed project or require additional studies from the applicant.

Gillway said the town is now working toward including digital, rewritable copies of each ordinance with the town's ordinance book and also creating a second set of digital, read-only files that would be stored in the Town Office safe. The only documents that would be altered in the future, said Gillway, are the hard copies.

If there is ever a question about an updated ordinance, Gillway said, Town Office staff could always refer back to the digital copies in the safe.

"That way, we'll always have a good record," said Gillway, speaking to The Republican Journal Friday, July 20.

But creating the new storage and backup system for all town ordinances will be a daunting task, said Gillway, because not all of those documents are in digital format due to their age.

"We hope to be able to get a few done every few weeks," said Gillway. "And we are in the process of doing that."

Gillway said Friday the ordinance copy was not properly updated when the Planning Board began its review of a proposal from Colorado-based DCP Midstream earlier this year, but that should not create any problems in the ongoing process.

"The [Planning] Board has always operated under the premise that they can always ask for more studies," Gillway said, adding that the board has acted in a way that reflected the new ordinance language.

At Tuesday's meeting, resident Phyllis Sommer expressed concern that the mistake may have impacted the ongoing review of the DCP application.

"Decisions have been made based on this erroneous ordinance," she said.

Sommer said it wasn't a member of the Planning Board or Gillway who discovered the error, but "a group of five or six of us" who took the time to examine several town documents, including the site plan review ordinance. Had she and her neighbors not gone through the documents, she said, "this would have been missed."

"This was a fluke," she said.

Friday, Gillway called the mistake "regrettable," and reiterated his earlier statements that there is no other party to blame for the error.

"There are some people who want to accuse others [of making the mistake], but there are no others to accuse," said Gillway. "I made the mistake."

In a related matter, Anglers Restaurant proprietor Buddy Hall expressed frustration at the Planning Board process regarding the DCP application review, as the board has now asked members of the public to hold off on making any verbal comments regarding the pending application until public hearings are held on the topic.

"DCP should be there filling us in on our questions as well," said Hall. "I was frustrated because I had a question and I couldn't ask it because of the new rules."

Hall also expressed thanks to Searsport Police Chief Dick LaHaye for a recent safety training session LaHaye led for members of Hall's management staff at the restaurant. Hall asked LaHaye to come work with his staff in response to the increasing number of pharmacy robberies that have occurred around the state in recent months, noting that "it's only a matter of time" before those crimes hit other businesses, such as his.

Hall said he and his staff were impressed with LaHaye's instruction, and all are looking forward to another training session Hall plans to organize with LaHaye regarding homeland security. The second session is in response to the pending DCP project, a proposal that includes construction of a 22.7-million-gallon liquefied petroleum gas storage tank that would neighbor Hall's restaurant. Hall and others in town have raised concerns at past meetings about how the tank might make Searsport a bigger terrorist target.

In other news, selectmen:

• Heard a presentation from Carmine Pecorelli, a member of the Maine Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, regarding Pecorelli's request that the town sign a statement of support for town employees who are also members of the armed services;

• Agreed to send a letter to the Maine Department of Transportation requesting the speed limit on Turnpike Road be reduced from 45 mph to 25 mph; and

• Appointed Gayle McKeige to the post of deputy emergency management director.

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