Falmouth outsources assessing to Cumberland County

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FALMOUTH — The Town Council voted 5-2 Monday to outsource assessing services to Cumberland County.

Beginning in July, assessing will be handled by Gary James, director of regional assessing for the county. Falmouth joins with Cumberland and Yarmouth in contracting its assessing services with the county.

The decision also puts an end to nearly a year of discussions on a proposal that attracted vocal opposition from some councilors and eventually members of the public.

On Monday, five Falmouth residents reiterated their displeasure with the plan during a public comment period, followed by a lengthy debate among councilors.

Councilor Russ Anderson, who with Councilor Chris Orestis opposed the plan, began the debate by posing two fundamental questions: Does the Town Charter provide the council with the authority to outsource assessing? Is outsourcing the department a good idea to begin with?

Chairwoman Teresa Pierce said town attorney William Plouffe had recently determined that the charter does allow the council to subcontract the service.

Anderson said he disagreed.

“With all due respect to Bill … I don’t think he could be more wrong on this,” Anderson said.

After several other councilors backed Plouffe’s opinion, Pierce moved the discussion to address Anderson’s second question, which mostly hinged on whether customer service would be adversely affected by outsourcing.

James, speaking from the podium, said he would be available to Falmouth residents about four half-days per week, either in person at town halls in Cumberland, Falmouth and Yarmouth, or by phone or e-mail.

Town Manager Nathan Poore said customer service will not be adversely affected.

Regardless of the outcome, Falmouth would have needed a new assessor by the end of the fiscal year because long-time assessor Anne Gregory plans to retire on June 31.

The town was faced with a choice: Hire a new full-time assessor to replace Gregory, or join with Cumberland and Yarmouth in outsourcing that responsibility to the county.

Town Manager Nathan Poore said Tuesday that consolidation would net the town an annual savings between $50,000 and $60,000.

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or bmccanna@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.