Cumberland to partner with Gray for assessing

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CUMBERLAND — The town is discontinuing its agreement with Cumberland County for assessing services, opting instead to partner with Gray.

The Town Council on Dec. 28 unanimously supported the break with the county, with no discussion before the vote. The Gray Town Council was scheduled to vote on the agreement Tuesday, Jan. 5.

The county has done Cumberland assessments for two years, at a current annual cost of $65,000, according to Cumberland Town Manager Bill Shane. Regardless of whether the town stayed with the county or partnered with Gray, he said, the cost will increase to more than $75,000.

Shane in an interview last week said Cumberland and Gray are planning to have both an assessor and a new assistant/administrative position. He said Gray’s assessor, John Brushwein, is “a very good assessor.”

Brushwein would remain a Gray employee, and Cumberland would pay for his services. Meanwhile, Cumberland would hire someone to serve as an assistant to help Brushwein. Cumberland will likely advertise for that person in February or March.

“They’d basically be going back and forth between the two communities,” Shane said, adding that Brushwein would work in Cumberland two days a week, with the assistant covering the rest of the time.

“The work flow is always going to drive where the resources are needed,” he said.

“We appreciate the opportunity to participate in this regional program and sincerely wish you and your staff the best in the future,” Shane wrote in a Dec. 29 letter to County Manager Peter Crichton.

“Unfortunately,” he added, “the program did not meet the expectations of the Town Council and its desire to deliver a more personalized level of service as it related to taxation of property within the community.”

Shane declined Dec. 31 to say much more, although he noted that Cumberland is “in a position where we just need to go in a different direction. … Our town is looking at this long term, and feeling that this is probably the best model for us to go forward.”

In an interview Jan. 4, Crichton acknowledged the service the town of Cumberland received “wasn’t what Bill and councilors would have liked to have seen. And I think every program can improve.”

But, he added, the county is not having the same problem in the other communities where it provides assessing services.

“We will work on continuing to develop the assessing program,” Crichton said.

Falmouth, Yarmouth and Casco are the other three towns participating in the county program, Shane said. Falmouth is studying its arrangement and has until March 31 to renew with the county.

Gray Town Manager Deborah Cabana said in an email Jan. 4 that “collaboration with neighboring communities for efficiency and cost saving is desired for almost all communities.  I believe this is a good time to consider this cooperative working relationship.”

While the contract with the county runs through June 30, Cumberland will begin transitioning into the Gray partnership Feb. 1, Shane said, adding that the extra expense from that overlap will likely be paid for with contingency funds.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.