Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, March 9, 2017
Selectmen’s raise, opioid article, pass at Deer Isle town meeting
by Monique Labbe
An almost 45-minute-long conversation about selectmen salaries led to a $6,000 raise in Board of Selectmen chairman Lewis Ellis’s salary at Deer Isle’s town meeting on March 6.
Article four on the warrant asked residents to approve $6,000 a year per selectman, a total of $18,000. Ellis stood and addressed the standing-room-only crowd and listed off all of the duties he performs on a weekly basis, including, but not limited to, meeting with office staff, talking with Code Enforcement Officer Judy Jenkins, calling former CEO Hubert Billings for advice and assistance as needed, checking the mail, reviewing property assessments, regularly attending meetings for various town organizations, and approving payments and purchases for the town.
“If no one is here, the town can’t run,” said Ellis. “It’s important for the selectmen to keep an eye on things and know where the town is headed. [The selectmen] are the boss, and need to know what’s going on to make decisions.”
Allen Chesney, a member of the audience, asked selectmen Ron Eaton and Twyla Weed how many hours a week they spend in the office, and also asked for a detailed account of what tasks they perform in their selectmen capacities.
“It seems as if [Ellis] is doing much more than the other selectmen,” said Chesney.
Eaton noted that he fields daily complaints and concerns from townspeople while he is out in the community, and that he brings those things to the selectmen’s meetings every Thursday night.
Weed echoed Eaton’s comments, saying it is difficult to know how many hours she spends a week performing selectman duties.
“I can get phone calls at 6 a.m. or midnight, or run into 10 people a day at the store or post office, you just never know,” said Weed.
Several members of the audience echoed Chesney’s concern that Ellis is performing more duties than his fellow selectmen. Chesney called for an amendment to the warrant article, asking for Ellis’s salary to remain at $6,000 but for Weed and Eaton’s salaries to be cut to $3,000 each. That amendment was voted down by majority.
Roger Hooke suggested that instead of cutting salaries, Ellis receive a $12,000 a year salary, while Weed and Eaton remain at $6,000 each. After amending the article to include that raise, it was passed by a majority vote.
Another topic to be approved on the warrant was a request for $20,000 to be put toward the funding of prescription opioid and heroin abuse education at the elementary school and high school, as well as treatment and recovery programs for residents of Deer Isle and Stonington.
Charles Osborn, a representative of the Opiate-Free Island Partnership, Inc., said that should the town approve the funds, the money would be put toward education and rehabilitation through programs that are already in place but underfunded. Those programs include medication-assisted treatment being done by doctors at Island Family Medicine, individual counseling services provided by Aroostook Mental Health Center, and drug education in schools.
“Education is key,” said Osborn. “But it has to reach beyond the school. It is important that what we do reaches everybody in the community.”
Osborn added that group therapy and Narcotics Anonymous programs do not exist on the island, and that people have to travel to attend them.
Roger Greene addressed the warrant article as a “no brainer,” saying that the drug epidemic on the island is a “huge problem” and that passing the article was a step in the right direction.
“I would give three times as much of this of my own money if I had it,” said Greene.
The article was passed by a majority vote, which was met by a round of applause from the audience.
The town approved all 70 warrant articles, which also included a $2,000 raise for Treasurer Myra Weed, which brought her salary to $32,000 a year. The total municipal budget amount passed was $1,278,203.
In a two-way race for a one-year seat on the CSD 13 Board, Deer Isle voters cast 167 votes for Loring Kydd and 89 for Amy Vaughn.
Selectman Ron Eaton 204 votes
Road commissioner Bert Schmidt 243 votes
Treasurer, Myra Weed, 242 votes
Town clerk, Heather Cormier, 243 votes
* denotes winner
CSD #13 (Deer Isle only)
Skip Greenlaw (3-year), 178 votes
Loring Kydd (1-year) 167 votes
Amy Vaughn (1-year) 89 votes
*Denotes island-wide winner