Fort Fairfield town councilors table recommendations until August

11 months ago

FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — The Fort Fairfield Town Council voted to table recommendations from the community empowerment project during its monthly meeting Wednesday, July 19.

The councilors discussed the results of the community empowerment project recommendations meeting held by CEI consultant Catherine Ingraham that outlines the responsibilities of a town councilor.

The council will take up the seven recommendations again in August. The recommendations include amending the town charter to create a super majority for passing the budget and adding regular standing agenda items at town council meetings for department heads to present specific updates so the public knows what was discussed.

“I would rather put more time in discussing [these recommendations] a little more,” Robert Kilcollins said.

Fort Fairfield town council members listen to the Town Manager Dan Foster (middle-right) about the recommendations from the community empowerment project at the council meeting on July 19. (Paul Bagnall | The Star-Herald)

Councilors discussed changing the requirements for making amendments to the town charter, including in-favor votes by at least three board members in the areas of borrowing more than $250,000 for the annual budget and hiring a permanent town manager. They also discussed requiring affirmative votes by at least four councilors to sign an initial contract or to renew one with the town manager.

Tony Levesque, Fort Fairfield code enforcement officer, recommended the council table amend the voting language in the town charter until it can be discussed at a public hearing. Councilors tabled it.

The next recommendations had to do with the town manager. One was to establish a probationary period for new town managers and a detailed job description, including annual performance evaluations by the council. The other was that Fort Fairfield’s lawyer should review the final language of a contract before it is presented to the town manager for signatures.

Another recommendation was to establish a public comment period at the end of town council meetings for a period lasting three months.

The next recommendation was for the town council to charge the budget advisory committee to work with the council on adopting a new budget process for the next fiscal year. Finally, a recommendation that the town manager, the town’s department heads and town staff attend a team building retreat to add transparency and discuss their responsibilities to the town.

“There’s not enough talking going on and people are just not exchanging ideas,” Town Manager Dan Foster said. “Part of it is that we don’t have this commonality and we just don’t know each other well enough.”

The community empowerment project began in March in which its members conducted 26 interviews with town staff, department heads and anyone in the community interested in participating in the project.

In other business, the Fort Fairfield town council is not ready to introduce the adult use and medical marijuana businesses ordinance to the community, but has worked with Presque Isle to adjust an ordinance for Fort Fairfield to make it their own.

The ordinance would make it easier for the town’s code enforcement officer, police chief and fire chief to make sure marijuana businesses are in compliance with Fort Fairfield’s ordinance, Foster said. 

The marijuana ordinance for adult use and medical marijuana businesses will be introduced in August for the public hearing process.

The council also approved an annual audit by Felch & Company for $3,000. The town councilors discussed upgrading the Federal TRIO program, which helps disadvantaged students, at a cost of $4,000.

Owners of three of the 12 food trucks that showed up for the Potato Blossom Festival expressed an interest in opening up shops in Fort Fairfield. They plan to meet with the Main Street Revitalization group on Thursday, July 20.

Foster lastly brought up unacceptable teenage rowdy behavior and disturbing the peace at the basketball and tennis courts in Fort Fairfield. Police officer Cummings suggested putting rules in place for what can and cannot be done around those public areas.