Cape Elizabeth hires finance director

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CAPE ELIZABETH — A policy that prevents town employees from being appointed to municipal boards and committees remains under review after councilors voted Monday to hold a second workshop.

The Town Council on March 11 also unanimously approved hiring John Quartararo to fill a new finance director position, reviewed the new senior tax relief program, and learned about a new trend called “plogging.”

The town employee policy was referred on Jan. 14 to a Feb. 4 workshop, after which Councilor Valerie Deveraux and Town Manager Matt Sturgis planned to draft language for Monday’s meeting. 

But councilors unanimously referred the issue to another workshop, on March 18. They had questions about the wording and other details, and are still working out the specific committees employees would be able to join.

The policy has been in effect for several years. However, spurred by a request from a town employee to serve on a committee during the last round of committee appointments, the council decided in January to review the policy and possibly loosen its restrictions.

Finance

As the town’s first finance director, Quartararo will be “responsible for the management, direction, development and accountability for all functions under the Finance Department” and also serve as deputy tax collector. He will report to the town manager.

Previously, those responsibilities were fulfilled by the school business manager, who had the combined responsibilities of both the town and school controller.

“We just need another set of eyes, and the person who has the skills and abilities to understand,” Sturgis told councilors. “We want to do it right.”

Quartararo, who lives in Alfred, most recently served as the treasurer of Ogunquit for five years and previously was the finance director for both Saco and Bangor.

“I’ve been doing this work for about 40 years,” Quartararo said. “There isn’t anything that I would expect to see that I haven’t someplace else before.”

The position has a salary of $87,500, plus benefits, which will be paid from the unassigned fund balance through June 30, the end of the fiscal year. After that, the position will be funded through the town’s employee accounts. 

Tax relief

The council also heard a report about the new tax relief program for elderly residents. 

On Jan. 23, councilors unanimously adopted a senior tax-relief program for fiscal year 2019 that would provide up to $500 to residents 65 and older.

Of the approved $75,000 budget, $64,000 has been dispersed to the 132 approved applicants.

“That leaves us with a remaining fund of $10,593 until the 2020 fiscal year,” Tax Assessor Clint Swett said at the meeting.

“I met all 132 of these applicants,” Swett said. “They came into my office and what a wonderful group of people. They were so appreciative of the program.”

No applicants were denied as a result of a 10-year residency requirement, he said, although some were denied for having household income greater than $60,000.

Councilman Chris Straw questioned whether an asset threshold should also be taken into consideration.

“No, I don’t think so,” Swett responded. “The average land and building evaluation is $265,000, so it really is hitting the target.”

Plogging

Resident Bruce Rayner’s request to have the council designate the weeks of April 21-27 and Oct. 13-19 as “Plogging Weeks” was unanimously approved.

Plogging, a new eco-craze, is a portmanteau of “plocka upp”– meaning “pick up” in Swedish – and jogging. It is the practice of picking up litter while running, walking or cycling.

During Plogging Weeks, Rayner intends to organize volunteers to help sort litter, planning for no additional burden on town employees.

To prepare, Rayner said he went on a test run.

“It was about a mile,” he reported. “I plogged both sides of the road on Jan. 1 and collected 32 pounds of trash, including 54 redeemable bottles and cans, pieces of Styrofoam, two windshield wipers.” 

Rayner said he sorted the one-time haul and took the materials to the transfer station. 

John Quartararo is Cape Elizabeth’s new finance director.

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