FREEPORT — The Sewer District Board of Trustees has added a part-time, paid general manager and voted 4-0 to appoint Chairman Leland Arris to the job.
The action, taken by the board on Monday, Sept. 20, has at least one resident and one board member questioning the board’s motives.
Patrick Quigg of South Freeport Road said he is concerned that the job is a way to remove the district superintendent, who has been in his position for 25 years. He also said it is suspicious to have the board chairman apply for and fill a paid position within the district.
“What they are doing may be necessary, but how they are going about this should raise eyebrows,” Quigg said. “I don’t want my rates to go through the roof and I want residents to be aware of what is happening. I don’t want to make trouble, but I am seriously concerned and the residents of Freeport ought to know about this.”
Trustee Ed Hindley said he does not agree with the changes at the plant or with the new position.
“I’m not in favor of (the position), but I guess the chairman wants a change,” he said.
Hindley, 85, has been on the board since it was created, although he is not seeking re-election in November.
“I guess I have been here too long. I don’t always feel that change is necessary, and I really don’t see a need that warrants this position,” Hindley said. “To hire another person when the ones who are here are doing their job well doesn’t make any sense. We have no problems with the state or the federal government, and we maintain a good ship.”
On Monday, the board voted 4-0 to hire Arris as the general manager with a salary of $37,500 and a benefit package of about $23,000. The position is for 20 hours a week, although Arris said he plans to work as much as needed.
Hindley left the meeting before the vote. Board member John Arris III, who is Arris’ son, is a junior at the University of Maine Orono and was excused from the meeting, and Arris abstained from the vote.
Arris said the job description was created by reviewing other area general manager positions in the region, and the description was vetted by the superintendent and board members. He said he did not create the job, but did apply and was encouraged to do so by others on the board.
He said the district has been changing over the past two years, and is moving in a more modern, updated manner. The general manager position is necessary in order to move the district forward, he said.
Trustee Art Colvin said he was on the subcommittee to find the part-time general manager, and of the four applicants, Arris was the most dedicated and qualified candidate.
“This will be a seamless transition. (Arris) is aware of the operations of the plant and is familiar with the staff,” Colvin said. “We will review the position again in two years to see how it has worked out and what changes need to be made.”
According to the job description, Arris’ principal tasks will include providing administrative and management oversight, assistance, and recommendations in fiscal, legal and personnel areas. He will have overall responsibility for direction and performance of staff, and will report directly to the board, which will evaluate his performance.
Arris will also oversee the district’s financial operations, and will be in charge of all employee hiring and firing.
“This board has a different mind-set from boards in the past,” he said. “The current board is more active, more environmentally conscious, and is more willing to work with the town to coordinate projects. Change may be difficult for some, but we are making these efforts to deal with the problems that have occurred on a regular basis in the past.”
Arris said he stepped down from the board on Monday and the Town Council can appoint a replacement to the vacant seat until the next election, on Nov. 2. Since three candidates are running for two available seats, there may not be a need for a write-in campaign.
“We want to protect the Harraseeket,” Arris said. “We are doing everything properly, and taking it slowly.”
The Sewer District board meets the third Monday of each month. Vice chairman Michael Ashby will act as chairman until the positions are filled.
Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or firstname.lastname@example.org