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Councilors tussle over Brunswick Planning Board appointment

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Councilors tussle over Brunswick Planning Board appointment

Council chooses consultant for manager search
BRUNSWICK — The Town Council on Monday appointed a new member to the Planning Board, but not before elevating its collective blood pressure over the selection.
For the second time in just over two months, a councilor accused his colleagues of engaging in "shenanigans" while appointing Planning Board members. Meanwhile, another waited until after the meeting to accuse fellow councilors of mistreating one of the nominees.
That nominee was John Perrault, an associate member on the Zoning Board of Appeals who has twice applied for vacancies on the Planning Board.
Jason Bergquist, who in November ran for the state Senate in District 10 as a Green Independent, also applied for the board twice.
On Monday, five councilors voted to appoint Bergquist, but not before Councilor Gerald Favreau accused members of the Appointments Committee of stringing along Perrault. Favreau was particularly upset with the committee's recommendation to postpone the nomination process for a month so that other candidates could apply.
Perrault and Bergquist were applying for a position that opened Feb. 23.
"This is a disgrace," Favreau said. "We're fortunate to have people who are willing (to serve) on these committees. We have two candidates right now. ... I'm totally upset. This shopping around (for other candidates) is quote, shenanigans."
Favreau's comments echoed a Dec. 14 meeting, where former Chairwoman Joanne King accused councilors of playing "sleazy politics" with Planning Board appointments.
At the time King singled out Councilors Hallie Daughtry and Ben Tucker for trying to delay Planning Board nominations until the inauguration of two new councilors. King said Daughtry and Tucker were banking on the new councilors being more sympathetic to an alternate nominee, one whose development principles aligned with their own.
On Monday, King joined Favreau in lobbying on Perrault's behalf.
"I want to reiterate the importance of balance (on the Planning Board)," King said. "It's a disgrace to have someone who has been interviewed by three different appointment committees."
King said Perrault, a construction contractor, would add insight to a board she said was often "unfriendly" to development.
Neither Favreau nor King nominated Perrault during the Dec. 14 meeting. Instead they chose Richard Visser, a former Baptist minister, who ultimately won the appointment.
On Monday, Favreau nominated Perrault from the floor.
Tucker responded by nominating Bergquist, who he said also brought a business perspective to the board.
Perrault received four votes, from Favreau, King and Councilors David Watson and Margo Knight. Bergquist was backed by Tucker, Daughtry, Vice Chairman Benet Pols and Councilors Karen Klatt and Debbie Atwood.
After the meeting adjourned, King stood up and angrily accused councilors of mistreating Perrault, who had attended the meeting but left after the vote.
King could not be reached for additional comment.
Charges of politicizing Planning Board appointees have picked up intensity over the last few years, as Brunswick struggles to balance divergent development priorities.
But on Tuesday, Favreau said he was more upset about the lack of respect showed to Perrault. He added that Bergquist was more than qualified for the position and that he was not opposed to his selection.
"What really got my goat was (the committee) saying they wanted a larger field of candidates," Favreau said. "Well, then why don't you tell the people (who have applied) that they're not qualified? ... It just really pushed my button."
"Are we going to raise the criteria so that (applicants) have to have college degrees?" he added.
Tucker, who drew King's ire during the Dec. 14 meeting, declined to comment on Tuesday.
In other business, the council voted 7-2 to hire Municipal Resources Inc. to begin searching for a new town manager.
King and Watson opposed the decision, arguing that the town could save the approximately $18,000 it will cost to hire a consultant by simply hiring interim Town Manager Gary Brown.
Brown is applying for the position. He is also the assistant town manager, a position that could be cut if King's proposal survives upcoming budget deliberations.
Although other councilors agreed that Brown is doing a fine job, the majority argued that he would benefit from going through the selection process.
Pols said doing so would preempt any claims that Brown's hiring was a "backdoor deal."
The council also voted unanimously to consolidate polling places for the June 9 election. All seven districts will vote at Brunswick Junior High School on Columbia Avenue.

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or smistler@theforecaster.net.

 

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