The boards of selectmen in Damariscotta and Boothbay Harbor gave their blessing to their town managers to work on creating a shared town planner position.
The agreement would be the first of its kind between the two towns.
Bob Faunce, former planner for the Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission, has been Damariscotta’s town planner since Oct. 9, 2018, but he will be retiring in June. Boothbay Harbor has never had a town planner.
Faunce first proposed the idea to the chair of the Boothbay Harbor Board of Selectmen, Mike Tomko, as a way to be more competitive in attracting applicants for the planning position. On Nov. 16, Damariscotta Town Manager Matt Lutkus, Boothbay Harbor Town Manager Julia Latter, and select board Chair Mike Tomko agreed to pursue the idea with their boards of selectmen.
On Nov. 24, Lutkus said that, of all the towns in Lincoln County, Damariscotta likely has the most in common with Boothbay Harbor. The towns are similar in terms of their waterfront resources, median housing prices, regional school systems, and economies based in a downtown service-center and tourism.
On its own, Boothbay Harbor has saved about $50,000 for the planner position, and Matt Lutkus said that Damariscotta will likely end up paying Faunce a similar amount by the end of this fiscal year, according to his remarks at the Damariscotta Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Nov. 17. The towns will also partner to offer full-time benefits.
“We’ve been putting aside money for this for awhile,” Latter said on Nov. 29.
The town planner is responsible for reviewing development proposals, ordinances, and grant applications, attending planning board meetings, advising the land-use advisory committee and the comprehensive plan committee and addressing anything else requested by the town manager.
Both towns will soon begin working on their comprehensive plans for the next 10 years, and Latter said that Boothbay Harbor will need a planner with experience in guiding comprehensive planning committees through that process. Boothbay Harbor’s deadline for its comprehensive plan is 2025, and Damariscotta’s plan is due in 2024.
“The benefit is that we will be able to have this planner work on our (comprehensive) plan, which is going to be a major project for the next 2 to 3 years, in addition to working with the planning board… the board of appeals, (and) helping with some economic development,” Lutkus said on Nov. 17.
Lutkus said that he would like to see Faunce work with the comprehensive planning committee and the new planner until it can get off the ground.
The planner will split their physical time between the two town halls, with half of their week spent in Damariscotta and the other half in Boothbay Harbor. However, the planner will be available to the managers and boards in both towns in a full-time capacity.
This will hardly be a loss for the town, as Lutkus estimated that Faunce works somewhere 15-18 hours a week for Damariscotta by contract.
Damariscotta would be the planner’s employer and Boothbay Harbor would be billed for half of their salary.
Lutkus and Latter both said that filling municipal positions has been challenging for the two towns, particularly in the police and public works departments in Boothbay Harbor.
Following the resignation of Stan Waltz, Damariscotta recently advertised its code enforcement officer position for six weeks with no applications, only receiving two applications after the deadline. At the next selectmen’s meeting on Dec. 1, Lutkus will ask the board to confirm Corey Fortin as CEO.
Fortin already serves the towns of Washington, Bremen, Appleton, Morrill, and Waldo.
Sharing employees across municipalities has become more and more common for a wider variety of jobs, even in larger towns. Further north on Route 1, Rockland is giving consideration to sharing its assessor position with another town, according to the Bangor Daily News.
“I think it makes so much sense for small towns to share resources like we do,” Lutkus said on Nov. 24.
The next step for Damariscotta and Boothbay Harbor will be for Lutkus and Latter to draw up an interlocal agreement and job description.
Lutkus said that he will be looking for experience with comprehensive plans, economic development, and, preferably, a master’s degree in urban or regional planning.
Latter said that they plan to advertise the job around February.