Water and sewer district gets final nod

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The Southwest Harbor Water and Sewer District is set to take over operations of the town’s water and sewer departments on Jan. 1.

Selectmen on Tuesday approved the final pieces to making the switch to the quasi-municipal entity.

The board voted unanimously to approve a contract between the district and town for administrative services, stipends for the district’s three trustees and a memorandum of understanding regarding the transition. Little discussion preceded the votes.

The legislature approved a charter for the district earlier this year. Voters in November gave their nod to creation of the district, which town officials contend will operate more efficiently and economically than the town’s water and sewer departments. The trustees of the district met on three occasions to conduct business needed for the district to begin operations on New Year’s Day.

The district is to have four employees. Steven Kenney has been hired as manager. Chief operators for the sewer and water plants and a field technician have yet to be hired. Administrative duties, such as billing customers, collection of fees and managing the payroll and benefits of district employees will remain with the town under the contract approved Tuesday by selectmen.

The town is to provide those services for a fee of $23,225 for the first year. The contract is subject to an annual review, and the fee could be adjusted if warranted.

The trustees had approved bylaws for the district. However, one detail, setting their stipends, needed the approval of selectmen. They set the rate at $1,200 annually for 12 regular meetings and other duties associated with managing the district. Trustees will receive $50 for each additional meeting. The chairman is to receive an extra $200 each year.

The memorandum of understanding between the town and district spells out the responsibilities of the two entities regarding the transfer of the assets and liabilities of the water and sewer departments to the district.

As of Jan. 1, the water and sewer departments will no longer exist. As a result, four town employees were sent notices earlier this month stating that their jobs would be eliminated as of Dec. 31. They are not guaranteed jobs with the district.

The Teamster’s union, which represents the water and sewer department employees, has filed two complaints against the town with the Maine Labor Relations Board regarding the impact the creation of the district has on its members. Before concluding their meeting Tuesday, selectmen entered an executive session to discuss “union issues.”

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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