Citizens chime in on budget, election results

11 years ago
Aroostook Republican photo/Natalie De La Garza
    City Clerk Jayne Farrin, at leftt, swore in Caribou’s newest City Councilor, Shane McDougall, during the Nov. 12 meeting.

By Natalie De La Garza
Staff Writer

    CARIBOU — There was a new face amongst the Caribou City Councilors during their Nov. 12 meeting, as recently elected Shane McDougall was sworn in before serving the city in his first meeting, which happened to be the same meeting as the public hearing on Caribou’s proposed 2014 budget.
    While there were few public participants in the budget public hearing, councilors were presented with an overview on the budget by City Manager Austin Bleess.
    Bleess said that the 2014 budget highlights another year of tough choices that need to be made.

    “As the state continues to break their promise to the citizens of Maine by reducing revenue sharing and forcing cities to raise property taxes, the budget presented here reflects the only two options the city has: cut services or raise taxes,” he said.
    As the council had previously expressed their wishes to cap any mil rate increase to 1.4 mils, city officials offered cuts to the proposed budget that would knock $581,593 off the $9,749,209 for 2014, a figure that was presented to the city and councilors in October.
    Coming to the council with his own budgetary insights and suggestions, Caribou resident Paul Camping spoke at the hearing and asked councilors to, “above all, keep Caribou an affordable place to live,” he said. “The more money people have to pay in taxes, the less likely they are to buy new cars or maintain two cars, which will further accelerate the decline of excise tax revenue.”
    Another matter in which meeting attendees vocalized their concerns about was the Nov. 5 City Council election, during which the citizens elected McDougall and candidate Carol Pierson to serve the city of three possible candidates; Pierson was, however, found to be ineligible due to charter requirements.
    Caribou resident Wilfred Martin questioned the council, asking, “What are you going to do about that second seat?”
    Bleess explained that based on the legal advice that the city received, there were two people elected to the city council.
    “One is not eligible to hold the office of councilor and therefore, (councilor) Joan Theriault is still sitting in that seat because she was appointed to it,” he explained, reiterating that since no person was elected to hold that seat, councilor Theriault will stay there. “Once Joan is appointed to her (newly elected) term, a vacancy will be created in that spot once again, at which point the council will have 30 days to appoint someone, and 60 days to call for an election after that.”
    Martin questioned the legal opinion the city had received and expressed his opinion that the third candidate who was not elected by popular vote, Norma Milton, should be appointed to the council.
    Camping agreed.
    “The result of this election are in dispute, and until they are settled fairly and equitably to the satisfaction of all parties concerned, I strongly recommend and encourage the council not to follow the attorney’s course of action because it will most certainly drag the city of Caribou into a protracted civil lawsuit,” Camping said.
    “I proudly voted for Mrs. Milton, as did my wife and 456 other citizens of Caribou; your decision not to recognize Mrs. Milton as being properly elected is a slap in our faces, and it’s the functional equivalent of voter nullification,” he added.
    The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Caribou City Council is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 25 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers.