Limestone Select Board wants to increase town manager’s salary

2 months ago

LIMESTONE, Maine – Limestone wants residents to consider increasing the manager’s salary by $20,000 at the annual town meeting in June.

Since 2015, the town has seen 12 managers come and go. Last June, the town hired real estate developer Alvin Lam for the job but he only stayed two months after opting to become the town’s volunteer special projects director. Lam had been hired after a 7-month search for a new manager, during which the board rejected five initial candidates they said were too inexperienced. 

Select Board member Alan Mulherin stepped up as interim last August making him the town’s 13th manager in eight years and leaving the town once again without a long-term leader.

Limestone’s Select Board and budget committee finalized their recommendations for the next fiscal year’s budget during a workshop Thursday. The Select Board wants to increase the manager’s salary from $80,000 to $100,000. The budget committee is recommending only a modest increase to $82,400.

Budget Committee Chairperson Chuck Kelley said that the committee’s recommendation for the town manager’s salary aligns with their preference to keep wage increases to 3 percent for all town employees.

At Wednesday’s Select Board meeting, board member Irma Labreck said she would support setting aside $100,000 for the future town manager’s salary and possibly negotiating the salary down.

Mulherin agreed. “It’s about getting the person that you’re really looking for. You can always negotiate [the final salary],” he said.

Select Board Chairperson Randy Brooker said that it might not be realistic for Limestone to pay a town manager as much as a larger community but $100,000 is closer to the pay many candidates look for today. Houlton, for example, is paying their new town manager $110,000.

Mulherin said Thursday that he does not intend to become the official town manager and will notify the Select Board when he plans to resign, so they can start advertising the position. He did not indicate how long he might remain in the interim position.

The Select Board is also hoping that residents choose to give the town’s struggling recreation department another chance.

The Select Board recommends reserving $40,000 in the recreation department’s budget for a potential full-time recreation director. The budget committee is recommending $27,125 for a part-time director instead. 

In December, Town Clerk Kelly Johndro began splitting her duties between the recreation department and town office, receiving $22,000 from each department. Both the Select Board and budget committee’s proposals would do away with that arrangement but Johndro could still be a potential director, Mulherin said.

The town lost its previous recreation director, Kennedy Bencivenga, in Aug. 2022, and since then has not found another full-time director. Select Board members blamed low wages. 

Last year, residents rejected a proposed $106,426 total recreation budget, which would have included a $41,000 full-time director’s salary. They passed a $62,000 budget instead.

Select Board member Chris Durepo said Wednesday that program cancellations and leadership turnover have made some parents more skeptical of supporting the recreation department financially. But the town has to start somewhere if the department has any chance of growing.

“We need to focus on whatever the rec program is going to be. The last five years we’ve had unclear expectations and have just been throwing money at it to keep it going,” Durepo said.

Johndro said that she is just starting to build interest in new programs but will need the town’s support with program space and proper budgeting. She and the Chamber of Commerce held a successful Easter egg hunt and a local resident is starting a women’s exercise class.

“I want to see this rec program work. I’m willing to learn every aspect [of being a rec director] and find people who can teach me,” Johndro said.

In Public Works, the Select Board voted to recommend $55,000 for Highway Foreman Spencer Keiser’s salary, a 10-percent increase, while the budget committee is recommending $51,500, a 3-percent increase.

The Select Board and budget committee are recommending $45,320 salaries for both public works drivers and $47,300 for the equipment operator, all of which represent 3-percent increases.

Select Board members say they want to allocate $27,740 for Trafton Lake, which the board voted to keep open under new management this summer. The budget committee will recommend $14,160 instead.

Residents will have the final say at the town’s annual meeting June 12.