Palmer becomes 3rd North Yarmouth selectman to resign in a year

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NORTH YARMOUTH — Citing frustration with what he called a “dysfunctional” Board of Selectmen, Selectman Steven Palmer resigned Wednesday.

“I’m done. I’m frustrated; I think it’s a very dysfunctional board at this particular point,” said Palmer, who has three months remaining in his second term on the board.

His departure is board’s third in a year. Selectman Clark Whittier resigned last June, followed by Selectman Mark Girard in December.

Palmer resigned the day after a two-hour meeting of the board, where he and other selectmen discussed whether to send a proposal for redeveloping North Yarmouth Memorial School to a June referendum.

The board voted 3-1, with Palmer opposed, to put a proposal from A.H. Grover Co. of North Yarmouth on the ballot. He moved to amend the motion by adding a question to the ballot about other proposals for redevelopment, but his motion was not seconded.

“I’m just not suited for working with the board,” Palmer said in an interview Wednesday. He noted his disagreement with the decision made the night before, as well as with the board’s “approach to the issue of a community public hearing, and the input, and the comments that were provided, and the numerous emails that were sent to the town manager.”

A referendum approved by voters last November that led to the town’s request for proposals about the school called for the town to have public hearings “intended to provide the board with input to help us make a decision,” Palmer said. “Those comments, many of them were disregarded.”

Elected to the Board of Selectmen in 2010, Palmer’s term expires in June. His seat will be filled in the June election, along with the final year of Girard’s term. Palmer chaired the board for three years, and was replaced last July by Alex Carr.

Girard left five months later, and chose at the time not to discuss his reason; his departure came a month after Question 1 failed at the polls.

The vacancies leave the board with only three members. Two selectmen are needed for a meeting to be held, and three for a vote to be taken, according to Town Clerk Debbie Grover.

While the job can sometimes be a thankless one, Palmer said he never did it for thanks. “I just did it because I thought it was important to make a contribution to the community in whatever way, large or small, I could do that,” he said.

Carr on Wednesday said he “can empathize with a lot of (Palmer’s) frustration,” and with the heavy time commitment of serving on municipal boards. “It’s really important that we have a good consideration for the constraints of this job. It is significant.”

“I’m going to miss his expertise on that board,” Carr said, expressing appreciation for Palmer’s work through the budget process, and noting that on behalf of the board and town, “we thank Selectman Palmer for his many years of service.”

But he disagreed with Palmer’s statement that the board is dysfunctional.

“Just because we disagree does not mean that it’s dysfunctional,” he said. “And just because somebody doesn’t get their way does not mean it’s dysfunction.”

Whittier, whose service on town panels stretched back more than 30 years, said last April that he “didn’t have the passion for it anymore.”

Whittier supported what became Question 1 on last November’s ballot. That question proposed redeveloping the school, which closed in June 2014, as a municipal and community campus with a municipal sewer system, while Town Hall would have been sold.

Critical reaction and lingering questions from the public about that proposal postponed consideration at an April 2015 Town Meeting until at least that June, and then ultimately to November 2015.

Question 2, which passed instead, called for the town to cease all spending and work on the project.

It also stipulated that Wescustogo Hall – the community gathering place destroyed by fire in 2013 – be rebuilt per a 1997 agreement with the town; that the Town Hall be maintained and renovated; that proposals be sought for the school building; that citizen feedback be garnered on all proposals, and for any plans for the school to go to a town vote.

Two public hearings, held this month on the two development proposals the town received, culminated with the March 29 Board decision on which option to pursue.

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

Steve Palmer

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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.