Pay plan approved



MOUNT DESERT — A formal policy aimed at rewarding town employee longevity and establishing salary brackets was approved by selectmen Monday in a split vote.

The changes were proposed by a working group of town department heads seeking to establish a compensation system with clear methods for setting salaries and minimum cost-of-living increases.

At the beginning of the discussion, board member Brian Reilly asked that the item be tabled because he had not looked over the latest version. Selectman Martha Dudman concurred.

Harbormaster John Lemoine took issue, noting that several employees already had attended two meetings where it was postponed and that it wasn’t fair to waste their time. “It’s a poor thing that you’re not ready to deal with this tonight,” he told the board.

Police Chief Jim Willis explained that the process was started to help employees know where they stand and that it was not an adversarial situation between employees and the town. “It’s a morale issue,” he said.

As the number of questions from the board increased, the idea of postponing the item was dropped.

Town Manager Durlin Lunt told the board he approved of the proposed changes. “I believe it would be a pretty good system to use,” he said.

Public Works Director Tony Smith told the board that Mount Desert as a community should expect to attract the “cream of the crop” when it came to employees. He argued the new policy would do just that. “We should be setting the bar,” he said.

The policy includes a provision that salaries be within a set range of the average in other towns statewide. It also sets a minimum of 1.5 percent for cost of living increases, although that amount could go higher.

Any related salary adjustments would be retroactive to July 1, the start of the town’s fiscal year. The plan also addresses how employees must select which retirement plan to participate in.

Union employees would not be subject to the policy because those issues are spelled out in their contract.

Selectman Dennis Schubert urged holding off on approval until the plan could be fine-tuned. “I don’t think we have all the information we need,” he said. He opposed automatic longevity increases. “I’ve been involved in compensation plans for a group of 300 physicians, and after five years they don’t get bumps for longevity,” he said.

The policy changes would set a higher percent of the state average salary for employees that had been with the town for 15 years or more.

Dudman moved to adopt the policy changes. It was seconded by Chairman John Macauley. Selectman Matt Hart joined them in voting in favor. Schubert was opposed. Reilly abstained.

Quarry update

Dudman on Monday question why a requested meeting between the board and the Planning Board to get an update on a pending quarry license was not on the agenda.

Lunt reported that with the town’s recent issuance of a stop-work order to the owners of the quarry and a planned continuance of the public hearing on the license application in early October, it made sense to wait. “Until then there is not anything to report,” he said.

“It would be good to have an update,” Dudman said.

Lunt said he would request that Planning Board members appear at the board’s second meeting in October, set for Monday, Oct. 17.

Fire truck

Selectmen on Monday approved Fire Chief Mike Bender’s request to spend $557,345, as planned, from the capital improvement account to purchase a new fire truck in 2017. That price includes aftermarket electronics such as a laptop computer and radios.

Bender explained the new truck will replace a 1995 International Pumper, which is 22 years old. The old truck would have only nominal value on the used vehicle market. “It would be like trying to sell a cell phone that’s 10 years old,” he said.

Proceeds from the sale of the International and another truck that sees little use will be returned to the town’s fire equipment reserve fund.

General assistance

Also on Monday, the Board of Selectmen held a public hearing for the adoption of a new general assistance ordinance. The town proposed adopting a model ordinance drafted by the Maine Municipal Association.

Macauley called the hearing to order and asked multiple times if there were any questions or comments. After waiting a minute, he closed the hearing, and the board voted unanimously to approve the new version.

Sustainability

Mount Desert’s Sustainability Committee got the go ahead on Monday to begin monitoring energy consumption and water usage at all town facilities, using a system called Portfolio Manager. Plans call for members to collect data monthly to build a baseline that can be used for efforts to reduce electrical usage, heating fuel and water use in the future. Data entry would be done by committee volunteers, member Gordon Beck said.

The information eventually would be available online on a password-protected website.

Smith explained that detailed water usage is not available, as the town does not use meters but rather bills municipal system customers based on the number of fixtures on a property.

Macauley praised the efforts of the sustainability committee. “You guys are doing a great job,” he said.

The committee also told the board they are proceeding with efforts to convert the town’s approximately 230 street lights to energy-efficient LEDs. Replacements would also be “dark sky” compliant to reduce light pollution.

Earl Brechlin

Earl Brechlin

Editor at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander editor Earl Brechlin first discovered Mount Desert Island 35 years ago and never left. The author of seven guide and casual history books, he is a Registered Maine Guide and has served as president of the Maine and New England Press Associations. He and his wife live in Bar Harbor.
Earl Brechlin

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