A discussion on the town manager’s contract during the citizen comment portion of the Waldoboro Board of Selectmen meeting drew a full house to the town office on Tuesday, Feb. 9. Residents offered the board their advice on the state of the town, the board of selectmen, the town manager, and the community’s direction moving forward.
The influx of public participation in the meeting on Feb. 9 centered on discussion of Town Manager Linda-Jean Brigg’s contract, which expires in June.
Briggs started in the position of town manager on March 10, 2014.
During a January meeting, the board of selectmen held initial discussions on the town manager’s contract, leading to a large turnout for the meeting on Feb. 9.
Members of the public had differing opinions on how to best move forward on the matter, but all who addressed the meeting stressed the importance of working together, working for the good of the town, and proceeding forward in a positive manner.
Steve Cartwright, a resident and former three-term selectman, said that though sometimes it feels thankless, most of the time it feels good to be working on behalf of the town.
“It’s a stubborn old town and I love it most of the time. I’m stubborn too at times and I’ve made my share of mistakes. I think it would be a huge mistake to lose another town manager. We have gone through a number of them … I think we need to be professional about it if we can. I think we need to look to the best interests of the town and stay positive,” Cartwright said.
He also said it was important to consider where the town wants to be in the future.
“I think there is great potential for Waldoboro if we all work together and if we are a team,” Cartwright said.
Planning board Chair Seth Hall talked about the town manager’s “style” and urged the board to carefully word the contract if they choose to stick with the town manager.
“My principal concern as you go forward thinking about what to do about this … is that if you do go forward with a reappointment, I would hope you would very seriously consider encouraging conversation with the town manager about style. One of the things I’ve heard from many people in town, including some of you, is that there is a forcefulness in L.J.’s style that can sometimes be problematic,” Hall said.
He also suggested thinking of ways to improve the style of how business is conducted at the management level.
“I would hope that being the employer of the town manager … you could think of some creative ways, perhaps, to help the town management become a little more warm and fuzzy, soft, use whatever term you like. I think that would go a great way in finding out if this individual is the right town manager for our town,” Hall said.
Waldoboro Director of Planning and Development Emily Reinholt said that though she and the town manager have different philosophies, they have been able to work well together.
Reinholt also emphasized the importance of stability in bringing businesses and families to Waldoboro.
“There has been a period of stability here for the past year or so that the town has not seen for a really, really long time. When the town has seen it in the past, it’s been successful and it’s been able to get things done. But it just has not been here for so long that projects have been started and stopped so many times,” Reinholt said.
She said a number of projects the town has moved forward on in the past months would be put in jeopardy if the town changes direction.
“I’m very concerned about the amount of progress that is happening now and seeing it all come to an absolute stop,” Reinholt said.
Reinholt also said the town is making progress on a number of projects and generating positive feedback from both inside and outside the community.
“I don’t want to see all of that hard work go backward,” Reinholt said.
John Higgins, a resident, said the debate had drawn a number of individuals who do not normally attend meetings and said it would be nice to see this level of turnout on a more regular basis.
“People really aren’t involved until they come for their special needs,” Higgins said.
Liam Ducharme, a resident and town office employee, said he was worried the board of selectmen may use the ongoing contract negotiations with the town manger to dislodge her from that role and urged the board to move forward with a new contract.
“She has been the first manager with the brass enough to deal with some of the tougher problems we do have here in Waldoboro,” Ducharme said.
Ducharme also said the current town manager has played a key role in bringing businesses to the community.
“L.J. has been instrumental in the placement of a Family Dollar, the expansion of CarQuest/AutoZone, and the ever-popular upcoming expansion of our own Hannaford Brothers. There is so much more, but not enough time tonight to deliver a list,” Ducharme said.
He also emphasized the detrimental effect dislodging the town manager would have on the community as the town adjusts to a new town manager.
“If our current town manager is dislodged, it will affect all the good things happening in our town right now,” Ducharme said.
Carl Cunningham, a former selectman and school board member, said he was on the board of selectmen when Briggs was hired for one year in 2014, but adjustments were made to make the contract a 2 1/4-year agreement.
Cunningham urged the board to consider the matter of renewing the contract carefully.
“I think we need a town manager who is here at 8 a.m. Monday morning and stays here until at least 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon,” Cunningham said.
The board discussed the matter in a closed-door session following the adjournment of the meeting and did not come to a decision on the evening of Feb. 9.
The board held a public hearing on amendments to the transfer station ordinance and voted unanimously to adopt the amendments.
The board also unanimously approved the appointment of Margaret Rhinelander to the planning board.
“I think she will be a great addition to the planning board,” Selectman Ronald Miller said.
During the town manager’s report, Briggs said the transfer station has been collecting bottles and cans for redemption and giving the proceeds to the Waldoboro Food Bank.
She said last month $697.45 was donated to the food pantry and urged community members to donate their returnables.
“You can’t imagine the amount of gratitude that was received with,” Briggs said.