City Council chair says Presque Isle Industrial Council appointment does not violate bylaws

2 months ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — City Councilor Gary Nelson was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Industrial Council during Wednesday night’s City Council meeting despite owning property in the Skyway Industrial Park.

Section eight in the Industrial Council bylaws—which governs the Board of Directors— says “no director shall be an owner of property located within Skyway Industrial Park.”

Asked about Nelson’s selection appearing to violate Industrial Council bylaws, City Council chairman Kevin Freeman said the bylaws of the Industrial Council do not govern the City Council. He said the bylaws are for the at-large directors of the Industrial Council.

Nelson, who owns Aroostook Trusses Inc. on Missile Street in the Industrial Park, declined to comment on his joining the Industrial Council. 

City Councilor Craig Green nominated Nelson for the Industrial Council. Green and fellow councilor James Carroll were also nominated. Nelson and Green were elected to the Industrial Council by a vote of the full city council, with Green receiving six votes, Nelson five, and Carroll one. Only two city councilors sit on the Industrial Council’s board of directors.

City leaders formed the Industrial Council in 1961 as a standalone entity charged with overseeing the city’s assets in the Industrial Park, according to Tom Powers, executive director of the Industrial Council. The 9-member council is made up of two city councilors, two members from the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce, the city manager, city economic development director, and three at-large members that can come from anywhere in the city limits, Powers said.

Powers declined to comment on Nelson’s being chosen to the Industrial Council, but he interjected when Nelson was nominated Wednesday saying he wasn’t sure if Nelson would be allowed to serve on it. 

Industrial Council bylaws are a product of the city leaders who formed the council and have been developed over the past 60 years to help the council operate, Powers said. Input for the Industrial Council comes from various sectors of Presque Isle whether commercial, private, nonprofit, or municipal.

A city councilor can serve on the Industrial Council Board of Directors for up to a three-year term, or until the city councilor’s term is up. Nelson’s term on the City Council lasts until the end of December 2025.

“We hope that our bylaws are written with enough transparency within them and they are equal to all parties,” Powers said.

Freeman has served on the Board of Directors for the Industrial Council in the past and said he is familiar with how they operate. If a conflict of interest was perceived in the past by one of the Board of Directors then they would recuse themselves from a vote. A board director abstaining from a vote on the Industrial Council is up to the individual director, Freeman said.

“In this instance with Gary it is one voice out of nine,” Freeman said. “The majority is still controlled by the Presque Isle Industrial Council with their at-large seats.”

The Industrial Council’s current at-large members are President Scott Norton, owner of Percy’s Auto Sales Inc., Secretary Treasurer Ray Hews, retired banker, and Frank Bemis, who is a practicing lawyer for Bemis & Rossignol LLC.

Also serving on the Board of Directors for the Industrial Council are Vice President Derik Smith and Margo Dyer from the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce, Interim City Manager Lewis Cousins, and the Presque Isle Economic and Community Development Director position that is currently vacant.