Keith Higgins, right, chief of the Tremont Volunteer Fire Department, presents the Harvey Kelley Sr. Good Citizenship Award to Bill Weir at the start of Tremont’s open town meeting Tuesday at the town office. Weir is an active member of the fire department, serving as a lieutenant, board member and secretary. PHOTO BY EARL BRECHLIN

Manager salary questioned



TREMONT — Voters at the annual open town meeting Tuesday approved a $1.9 million municipal budget despite attempts to cut $45,800 from the administration budget, which proponents said was roughly the difference between the salary and benefits paid recently hired Town Manager Dana Reed and his predecessor.

Resident Kim Strauss raised the issue, saying the $107,000 in wages and benefits being paid to Reed was “too much money” for a town the size of Tremont.

“We can’t afford this in this town,” he said.

Strauss then attempted to amend an article authorizing selectmen to set a wage scale for all town employees. His amendment would eliminate the selectmen’s authority to set the town manager’s salary.

Strauss found some support among the almost 50 voters in attendance. One woman said selectmen should have considered other candidates for the job. “I think selectmen overstepped their boundaries,” she said.

John Buckwalter disagreed, saying that Reed’s extensive experience in municipal government was invaluable. Buckwalter and Carey Donovan also questioned what would be accomplished by the amended article.

“Somebody has to be responsible for setting the salary,” Donovan said.

The amendment failed 14-29. The article passed as written.

Strauss later attempted to amend a warrant article seeking approval of the $560,098 budget for administration, which includes wages and benefits for town employees. He proposed cutting $45,800 from that budget, which he said is the difference between the $60,000 paid to Carl Young, the previous town manager, and Reed’s salary and benefit package in the contract approved by selectmen in March. A 2.7 percent wage increase, the same as given all town employees, has been factored in, he added.

Strauss argued that a 10 percent increase in the municipal budget places too much of a burden on property tax payers. Although Reed’s salary cannot be cut, selectmen can find someplace else in the budget to come up with $45,800 in savings, he reasoned.

Selectman Dean Wass defended the board’s decision regarding Reed’s salary and benefits. Young, who resigned after less than a year on the job, took over the position from Millard Billings. Billings’s salary and benefits package was not much different than that of Reed, he said.

The motion failed 18-27. The article passed with the $560,098 amount intact.

Voters quickly gave their approval to a $2.49 million budget for the Tremont Consolidated School. The budget, which reflects an increase of $93,500, passed with no discussion.

Also included in the municipal budget are $487,000 for public works, $227,500 for police and fire protection and $24,575 for recreation, which includes $18,575 for Harbor House Community Service Agency. Harbor House provides sports and other programs to youths in Tremont and Southwest Harbor. The remaining funds are to go to the town’s recreation board.

Voters also approved of $12,700 in funding for outside agencies, an amount that included $3,000 for the Islander Explorer bus service, $3,000 for the MDI Campfire Coalition and $1,500 to both Island Connections and the Bar Harbor Food Pantry.

Amendments to wharf and facilities ordinances were approved. In general, fees for use of town facilities will increase. The amendments also would regulate parking near the town’s waterfront.

Elections

On Monday, voters at the annual town elections chose an incumbent and a newcomer to fill two selectmen’s seats.

Longtime selectman Chris Eaton was returned to his seat with 119 votes. Kevin Buck will fill the other three-year seat after gaining 102 votes.

A third candidate, Steve Harper, received 32 votes.

In an uncontested race for three school committee slots, Heidi Lawson and Mike McKee were elected to three-year seats, Jen Horner to a two-year seat.

To view more photos, click here.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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