Expanded clerk hours approved

TREMONT — Town officials took steps toward filling the position of town clerk and reorganizing the duties of town office staff Monday at a special meeting of the Board of Selectmen.

The meeting was in response to the abrupt departure of Town Clerk McKenzie Jewett, who resigned last week, two days after she met with selectmen to discuss the town’s downgrading of motor vehicle registration services. Friday was Jewett’s last day on the job.

One thing officials agree on is that the town clerk job should go back to being a full-time position. Several years ago, officials could not remember when exactly, the job description changed. Jewett had been working 26 hours a week.

“This is really going back to the way the office was organized several years ago,” Town Manager Dana Reed said in urging for the change.

Selectmen were unanimous in their approval.

However, the job won’t be advertised immediately. Reed suggested, and selectmen agreed, that a new job description must be developed and a wage study conducted before any advertisements are posted.

In the meantime, Reed said, he would like to hire an interim clerk. He said he has some leads on people who are qualified and available, and at this point, there is no need to advertise.

The town office has been short-handed.

Assessor and Code Enforcement Officer Debbi Nickerson had been out on extended medical leave. In addition, the town has been advertising for a replacement for part-time Deputy Clerk Lynn Wehrfritz, whose last day was to be Tuesday.

According to Reed, Wehrfritz has agreed to stay on for a while longer, easing the transition.

Nickerson returned to work Friday and will help cover additional responsibilities in the office as needed, Reed told selectmen.

One of Nickerson’s duties will be serving as the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) agent for the town, a position that was held by Jewett. As such, Nickerson is responsible for all transactions involving the registration of motor vehicles.

The BMV recently notified the town that, as of March 28, its status as a “New” level agent had been reduced to “Limited New” level agent due to bookkeeping errors and failure to meet deadlines. This means residents can still register their vehicles in Tremont and transfer plates from one vehicle to another. However, new license plates are no longer available at the town office. Those needing plates must first stop at the town office to pay excise tax and then make the trip to the BMV branch in Ellsworth for the plates.

The BMV agrees that Nickerson has the required training to act as the town’s agent, Reed told selectmen. As a result, license plates could be again available at the town office sooner than first expected.

“I’d say a minimum of two months,” Reed told selectmen, explaining that the BMV will reassess their decision at that time.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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