BUCKFIELD — Those who participated in the government analysis project hearing, agreed communication and economic development were the names of the game.
There were nearly 20 people who attended the hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 13, at the Buckfield Town Office. Interim Town Manager Brad Plante opened the hearing by telling residents, committee members and business owners he and selectmen wanted their input regarding the operation of the town. The meeting was recorded and ideas will be used for the government analysis report he will issue to selectmen before his six-month contract expires at the end of January 2018.
Economic Development Committee Chairman Greg Forget told those in attendance that he heard about the meeting via word of mouth.
“That is the essential problem that everybody is talking about. … No email was given to me as the chair. … No email or flier was presented at my brick and motor business,” he said. “As a person who lives here, plays here and works here, I have a vested interest in this town.”
He suggested updating the town’s website at www.townofbuckfield.com/ to inform people of what’s going on in Buckfield.
Budget Committee member Penny Horsfall said the website and cable TV aren’t always the best way to reach people because not everyone has the internet or cable, so only a portion of the town’s residents are being reached.
Budget Committee Chair Vivian Wadas suggested the town create a Facebook page to keep its residents up to date. Rescue Chief Floyd “Chip” Richardson said administrators should be allowed to post, otherwise there could be issues with the page. New resident Will Klotz works in IT and volunteered to create and run the town’s Facebook page. He and Plante will meet soon to discuss the matter.
Zadoc Long Free Library Director Katie Clukey offered the library as a spot to share and hand out information. Wadas suggested also using Tilton’s Market, the Transfer Station and the Post Office as locations to hand out information. Selectboard Vice Chair Cheryl Coffman said Tilton’s agreed to send out a single page flier with the business’ bulk mailings for the town.
Lee Johnson, the owner of the Buck-It Grill and Pub, suggested the town look into shared use roads like Rangeley as a way to attract more people to Buckfield and spur economic development.
“What that means a four-wheeler can drive down the road to the gas station and not get arrested,” he said. “Is that something we can do here? … We have people coming off of the railroad bed. They can’t get to the gas station legally, but they can go to Hebron get gas, eat, everything else. That’s great for Hebron, not very good for Buckfield.”
Colleen Halse agreed this was a revenue development opportunity and suggested the town look into places that have shared use roads and see if there have been any accidents, liability and law suits in doing so. She asked if Economic Development Committee members would be the ones who looked into it.
Plante told her it is up to selectmen to assign that task.
“Economic development in this community I think needs to be a number one priority,” he said. ‘We have a lot of buildings sitting empty. It makes a difference in the tax base.”
If this were to go through, Johnson offered to donate signs to the town to inform people that there are shared use roads in Buckfield.
Chris Chandler is the president of Wells Wood Turning and asked if the town had a list of assets, not physical ones but attributes that would make it attractive to people so they would live and work there.
“I knew there was a comprehensive plan developed in this town. I don’t know if it’s ever been put into play,” answered Selectboard Chair Maida DeMers-Dobson. She added that the assets list may need to be updated.
Chandler also asked if the town was exploring workforce development with Buckfield Junior Senior High School, noting his business faces the challenge of attracting qualified people to come work at the mill. He plans to contact RSU 10 officials to discuss a possible vocational program or internship at the business.
“We have some folks who have worked for us, who have been machinists, for 40 years,” Chandler said. “They have all this knowledge. They need to pass it on.”
Walter Rawle said he has a PhD in aerospace engineering and also owns Bear Paw Farm. He said internet access in the village isn’t an issue, but it is on his farm and other parts of the community, which should be addressed. When he first arrived in Buckfield, he went into the Town Office to see a list of available commercial properties to build aerospace components, but there was not one.
“I don’t know why anyone would put a business in this town now because of the political atmosphere of this town,” said resident Dick Piper, who uses to serve on the Road Committee and Planning Board.
As part of Plante’s interim town manager contract, he will also conduct the government analysis project and create a draft governance policy. The idea was formed after then-Town Manager Cindy Dunn announced in March she would resign from that position. She currently is the town clerk and she served in both capacities for three years. Selectmen wanted her duties separated.
“One of the problems was where one individual was town manager, treasurer, tax collector, town clerk, you had too much authority in one person. A couple of those jobs were … very clearly incompatible,” Plante said. “It’s called checks and balances.
“There are some positions right now that are under my job description like code enforcement. I’ve never been a code enforcement officer. I’ve had some work for me,” he continued. “Whoever comes in behind me if that job isn’t split out, it could be an issue.”
Plante said the town manager should not be the emergency management director since the emergency management director reports to the town manager.
Another role currently in the town manager description is tree warden. Plante said he had a forester step up and volunteer to fill that position.
Residents asked for a list of positions that could be doled out to other people. Plante agreed to create one and post it on the Town Office bulletin board and website.
Dona Grant, who is new to Buckfield, shared her experience when she came to the Town Office to get a list of vacancies on boards and committees.
“I think there are probably more people that wanted to be involved than you probably realize. … Quite bluntly, I was discouraged by joining any of them by the way they were described,” she said, adding she still wants to get involved and volunteer and plans on attending different committee meetings to check them out. “It was one of your own town officials that discouraged me from joining a committee.”
Selectman Del Dunn said the reason he ran for the position was to get the community involved. When he grew up in Buckfield, all of the boards and committees were full. When he returned recently, he discovered there are a number of vacancies.
“I am glad we got some voices here tonight,” he said. “I am asking you to go out and stir up your neighbor. … Get them out and about and out of the house.”
Wadas noted there has been different information shared over the years about volunteers in the community and potential issues that go with that. She implored town officials to contact Maine Municipal Association to get the correct information.
Other ideas, included:
- pursuing more grant and alternate funding opportunities.
- having several committees in town organize fundraisers to raise money or develop a committee to specifically fundraise for the committees.
- investing in town roads and utilizing the Road Committee and road plans Buckfield has. Piper offered to take Plante around to look at the town’s roads.
- adding more sidewalks to increase foot traffic.
- analyzing the town’s budget to find places to be more efficient.
- creating reserve and revenue policies.
- meeting with area towns to see what services can be shared.
- getting committee and board members together biannually to meet each other and exchange ideas and phone numbers.
Anyone with other ideas can email Plante at email@example.com.
There will be at least one other public hearing after Plante finished his analysis. Those in attendance last week requested a meeting in two months, but no date was set.