By Abigail W. Adams
From left: Edgecomb School Committee members Tom Abello and Cassandra Fabiano, AOS 98 Superintendent Eileen King, committee Chair Sarah Clifford, and Edgecomb Fire Chief Roy Potter attend an Edgecomb Board of Selectmen meeting about the fate of the Edgecomb Eddy School’s broken tractor Monday, Dec. 1. Ownership of the tractor and the proper procedure to follow to dispose of it are still undetermined. (Abigail Adams photo)
Place it out for bid, or transfer it to a different town department? That is the question that will determine the future of Edgecomb Eddy School’s broken John Deere tractor.
The question was discussed at length during the Dec. 1 meeting of the Edgecomb Board of Selectmen, also attended by members of the school committee, AOS 98 Superintendent Eileen King, and Edgecomb Fire Chief Roy Potter.
Ultimately the board decided to delay any decision until they could consult with the town’s counsel to ensure the proper legal procedure to follow was identified.
The selectmen’s Nov. 17 decision to transfer the broken tractor to the fire department raised questions about the ownership of the tractor and the proper procedure to follow to dispose of it. Acting under the belief the tractor is town property, the selectmen approved its transfer to the fire department.
Previous to Nov. 17, the school committee had moved the tractor to Union Farm Equipment, in Union, for appraisal, under the belief that disposal of school equipment was the responsibility of the school board.
“This has been a learning process for us,” school committee Chair Sarah Clifford said. “Who does what and who is responsible for what? I want to make sure everyone realizes it [appraising the tractor] wasn’t a purposeful intention to go around you.”
The tractor has been a source of contention in Edgecomb since the school committee approved the purchase of a new one with a $20,577 five-year loan in the spring. The town-wide vote required to approve the loan did not take place until Oct. 20.
Minutes from the Oct. 6 selectmen’s meeting suggest the tractor is town property and the school committee would need selectmen’s approval to sell it. The idea of transferring the tractor to the fire department, in an attempt to repair and reuse the equipment, was also introduced at the Oct. 6 meeting.
“When you said the old tractor was no good and that it needed to be replaced, that put a light on in my head,” Chief Potter said Monday night. “I thought maybe the fire department could utilize it. Right now we use personal vehicles to move stuff back there. Our main pumpers were thrown away by other towns and we refurbished them. That’s how we survive as a fire department.”
“The plan was to sell the tractor and to use that money to offset the loan,” King said about the school committee’s plan for the tractor. “That was always the intent; to reduce the cost of the loan.”
According to Clifford, Title 20A of Maine law places disposal of school property in the hands of the school board, authorizing them to sell the tractor.
The selectmen questioned whether that law applied since Edgecomb is a municipal school unit within Alternative Organizational Structure 98, rather than being a member of a Regional School Unit.
“The issue for us is that [the tractor] is a dollar amount that was purchased with educational budget money,” Clifford said. “The way we look at it is, if it’s still in our responsibility we want everyone to know that the tractor is worth x amount of dollars before it’s given to the fire department.”
School board member Cassandra Fabiano questioned whether the fire department would be responsible for reimbursing the school department for the value of the tractor if it was transferred into their possession. Selectmen chair Jack Sarmanain pointed out the school budget already makes up over 70 percent of Edgecomb’s municipal budget and other town departments are operating with limited resources.
“When you transfer [the tractor] to the town, the town is gaining,” Jack Sarmanain said. “Anything that we can do to augment [the fire department’s] ability to function better only makes sense to me.”
Potter had planned to use the refurbished tractor to move snow banks that block the line of sight at the entrance of the fire department and for other miscellaneous purposes on the fire department grounds.
“I find it hard that this has created such turmoil,” Potter said. “It’s town money and it’s going to continue to do a town function.”
The selectmen agreed to speak with town attorney Bill Dale and the Maine Municipal Association to determine ownership of the tractor and the proper procedure to follow to either sell or transfer it to another town department.
If the school committee is determined to be the municipal body responsible for disposing of the tractor they could still decide to transfer it to the fire department.