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Liberty Town Meeting

Assessor's agent defunded, then refunded

Three roads will not be plowed by town next winter
By Fran Gonzalez | Jun 29, 2020
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez Liberty Town Meeting June 27 at the Fire Station. To conform to CDC guidelines and not exceed 50 people, two meetings took place simultaneously, one inside and one outside under tents. Other than occasional microphone feedback and low volume for outside folks, the meeting ran smoothly.

Liberty —

Many at the June 27 town meeting expressed frustration with the property assessments done over the last year. One resident who said his taxes had doubled, and felt the agent who conducted the assessment was wrong, urged the town to defund the position in spite of the recommendation by selectmen to fix compensation at $9,750.

“We don’t need to be paying someone that doesn’t live in the town to assess the town,” he said. “As feeble as I am, I want to volunteer to help.”

Selectman Carrie Peavey defended the position, saying previously errors were made and that is the reason behind the board's recommendation to hire an outside agent.

After much debate, a vote was taken and it was decided by a majority of the approximately 70 residents at the meeting not to fund the assessor's agent position. Within the same article, it was also decided that the emergency fund would be raised to $10,000 from $1,035 because of unexpected expenses from back-to-back spring storms and COVID-19.

Toward the end of the four-hour meeting, an innocuous article dealing with “if a vacancy in an elected office arises during the town meeting, to vote for a said official” was read. At this point Selectman Peavey said she was considering resigning from her position without stating why.

Thinking it could be related to compensation, Deputy Clerk Hannah Hatfield asked residents if the town would consider raising the pay for selectmen, since they will now be taking on a new role as town assessors and doing more work for the same pay.

One resident said she felt it was unfair to ask selectmen who already work at a low rate of pay to take on more work.

Peavey said it was not the pay that was the issue, but rather that selectmen are not professionally trained as assessors and it would take at least three years to get up to speed.

A resident then asked to reconsider the previous article which the town voted on at the onset of the meeting, to either increase selectmen’s compensation or restore the assessor’s agent position.

“To take this on is grossly unfair,” one resident said. “It is a thankless job. By revisiting the article we can right this.”

The moderator did not think the request was unprecedented and agreed to reconsider the article. A vote was taken among the 25 or so residents remaining at the meeting. Ultimately the assessor position was reinstated.

Another point of much debate had to do with discontinuing winter maintenance on several roads in town. Sherman Road, Knowlton Shores Road and Liberty Inn Road are public easement-only roads, and the town asked residents to decide whether to discontinue snow plowing on those roads.

Town Road Commissioner Tammy Reynolds said, “Why are we plowing these three private roads and not all the other private roads? … It shouldn’t be about how much taxes you are paying — we should either do them all or do none of them.”

One resident who lived on Liberty Inn Road asked who would be liable if emergency vehicles could not get through and added for nearly 50 years her road has always been plowed. “We are all older, the ambulance needs to get down there. My taxes went up a lot with the revalution,” she said. “This is one of the few things the town is paying for.”

One resident asked to vote down the article, reinstate winter maintenance and also create a process to have roads meet standards in order to be eligible for plowing.

A secret ballot was held and ultimately the article narrowly passed by a vote of 33 to 30 to stop plowing snow on Sherman Road, Knowlton Shores Road and Liberty Inn Road. Similarly it was decided to not extend plowing on Kager Mountain Road.

Following this article, residents were asked to stop plowing snow on three additional roads with two or less year-round residences, including Ponderosa Place, Percey Road and Bolin Hill.

One resident of Bolin Hill pleaded to continue the winter maintenance, for his wife who is pregnant, and for three other families that live on top of the hill. Another resident added, “If we know there are families that live on that road and we as a town don’t plow the road, isn’t the town liable?”

In the end and after much debate, residents decided to “pass by” and not take any action on Ponderosa Place, Percey Road and Bolin Hill on the winter maintenance issue.

In other items of note, $52,000 was reallocated from a paving reserve fund to pay for immediate repairs to the Stevens Pond Dam. Contractor Richard Calligan said his crew could complete the “grout injection” to fix a known leak at the dam in about a week. He warned a future leak could possibly develop and added that it is a safety issue with the breach being so close to a swimming area.

The town approved $74,649 to fund training and payroll for the Liberty Ambulance Service and also voted to make the service municipally owned. Fire Chief Bill Gillespie said moving forward, Montville would need to contract with Liberty Ambulance Service, and discussions surrounding share-costs would need to take place in the future.

According to the selectmen’s letter to the town, the overall budget shows an increase of $111,3434, with $100,000 being used to replace the paving reserve used to repair the St. George Dam, and unoccupied foreclosed properties sold by sealed bids netted the town $33,692. The total valuation base rose to $168,223,581 from $121,790,441 last year, while the mill rate dropped to 13.05 from 17.95.

The town acknowledged Selectman Henry Hall, who retired after 20 years of service. Kerry Black stepped down from the Planning Board along with longtime Town Administrator Kenn Ortmann, who is also vacating his position.

Beth Cohen was introduced as the new town administrator and local businessman Duane Jewett was elected third selectman.

Residents cast their votes at the Liberty Town Meeting June 27 at the Fire station. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Road Commissioner Tammy Reynolds argues "why are we plowing these three private roads and not all of the other private roads?" at the Liberty town meeting June 27 at the fire station. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Former Town Administrator Kenn Ortmann bids farewell at the Liberty Town Meeting June 27. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Rep. S. Paige Zeigler, D-Montville, at the Liberty Town Meeting June 27. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Robyn Stanicki of Belfast, a Democrat running for the Maine Senate District 11 nomination, speaks at the Liberty town meeting June 27. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
From left, Liberty residents Warren Ard, Danny McGovern and Linda Breslin talk during a break at the Liberty town meeting June 27. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Liberty town meeting June 27 at the fire station. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Liberty resident Col. Duncan Milne, running for District 11 Senate seat, speaks at the town meeting June 27. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Republican Katrina Smith of Palermo, running for House District 96 seat at the Liberty Town Meeting June 27. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
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