The Quoddy Tides

Eastport, Maine

2006 June 23

Perry board's authority to hire law firm raises legal question

by Eileen Curry

Toward the end of a two-hour Perry selectmen's meeting, at the time usually earmarked for liquefied natural gas (LNG) issues concerning the town, Selectman David Turner responded publicly to a May 26 letter that was sent to residents in town from the Perry Citizens for Responsible Growth (PCRG). The letter states, "Two selectmen, David Turner and Dick Adams, agreed to commit town funds to retain a Bangor law firm to draw up a legal agreement between the Town of Perry and a developer, Quoddy Bay LNG. The proposed agreement would give the developer unprecedented control over the future of our town." The letter adds, "This extraordinary legal expense ($200 per hour) was never approved by Perry voters; in fact, the plan itself was never presented for voter approval." The letter asks for support in sharing their concerns, stating, "Our rights as citizens are being pushed aside to promote the interests of a private developer and the personal priorities of two selectmen." The letter listed a phone number for residents to contact with "any concern about this recent action."

Turner responded to the letter, saying, "I would like to address this issue, as they (PCRG) made it very personal in naming me throughout the letter." Turner stated, "Quoddy Bay LNG's proposed project is a major one, and I recognize the fact that there are great differences of opinion about any type of development. Every citizen has a right to his or her own opinion, and I welcome articulations of those views. However, the concerned citizens group doesn't necessarily represent the views of a majority of the town's residents, and it's unfortunate that they have misrepresented facts in order to try and swing opinions their way."

Turner said, "Any contractual agreements negotiated by selectmen must ultimately come back to the town as a whole for approval, either at town meeting or at the polls. The selectmen, on their own, cannot and will not attempt to bind the town to a deal with Quoddy Bay LNG." In response to a heated debate about fees to be paid to the law firm, Turner presented proof of a check in the amount of $10,000 along with a letter from Quoddy Bay LNG that states, "We are pleased to enclose our check, payable to the town, which is intended to supplement the funds raised and appropriated for the administration of the town affairs by the voters of the town under article 10 of town warrant 2006. We understand that you will be utilizing these funds to offset additional expenses in the administration of town affairs, which our project, proposed to be located on the Old Eastport Road, will impose upon the town in relation to retaining legal counsel to review and identify issues and propose language necessary to convert a draft agreement of an economic package we have offered Perry into a legally binding document between the town and Quoddy Bay LNG."

After this announcement, John Cook, a member of PCRG, asked Turner, "Are you accepting the check?" "Yes," said Turner. "Are you cashing the check?" Cook asked. "We have deposited the check, and this legal fee prepayment from Quoddy Bay LNG will require a vote before the selectmen can spend these dollars. That vote will probably take place in November of 2006." Cook squared off with Turner, saying that "unauthorized illegal decisions are being made," while Turner responded with, "We do have the authority to do what we are doing. The process will go forward, and we have the right to prepare for what may come in the future."

Linda Newcomb, newly-elected chairperson for the Perry Improvement Association, directed some comments to Cook, saying, "The selectmen do have the authority here. The people who voted him [Turner] in say so." Newcomb also asked Cook, "What is your group doing about bringing economic development here? What about this airline factory? Have you found out what is going on with that?" Cook did not respond to the question.

The selectmen then tackled the next issue. After some feedback, complaints and comments about meeting minutes, including a letter written by Ron Rosenfeld of Perry to selectmen and the law firm of Eaton Peabody about minute-keeping and opposing the selectmen's practices in regard to town legal fee issues, Turner made a brief announcement and also submitted it in letter form. "The board of selectmen do not keep minutes of the meetings. We do, however, tape record our meetings, which are on file with the town clerk." The letter also said, "You may arrange with the town clerk to listen to these tapes or request a copy. Since these tapes are the official town copy, they must be sent to an independent contractor for duplication. There will be a $12.50 per tape charge to cover the cost of the tape, dubbing and postage."

Selectwoman Jeanne Guisinger submitted a draft copy of guidelines for future selectmen's meetings and offered suggestions to elect a recording secretary, procedure for emergency meetings, a request for a tri-monthly financial report from the town treasurer, and public participation. Guisinger said, "To allow residents of the town of Perry an opportunity to participate in a mutually respectful and orderly manner, we will adhere to guidelines for meetings of selectmen. These simple ground rules will help us conduct town business effectively, professionally and openly, and provide an opportunity for public input." The request was submitted for a future agenda item for selectmen approval. Rosenfeld's letter was also submitted as a public document and can be made available upon request. The firm of Eaton Peabody Inc.'s reply to Rosenfeld's letter is also on file.

Comprehensive plan committee and other issues

Several other important agenda items were discussed during the selectmen meeting. Over 20 residents responded to a request for a Comprehensive Plan Committee. Selectmen read a list of potential candidates for the committee and publicly chose Angus McPhail, Julie McPhail, Richard Bowley, Linda Newcomb, Dick Adams, Andrea Barstow, Natalie Brown, Scott MacNichol, John Cook, Charla Morrison, Ann Skriletz, Brian Duffy, Georgiana Kendall, Dot Turner, John Spinney, Jason Brown, Karen Raye, Dennis Dorsey and Gerry Morrison. Morrison was appointed chairperson until the new committee meets to elect one.

John Ingersoll of the Marion Transfer Station asked for a letter of support from selectmen to endorse "a change on zoning" at the 20-acre landfill site to accommodate building materials, plastics and metals. "All the other towns are on board, and we would like Perry to be behind the project." Ingersoll answered several questions about the costs of waste disposal, household and ground materials. "I think we will save money by taking on this debris site," he said. Recycling and curbside pickup were brought up at this meeting again, and Ingersoll was asked what he thought about it, and stated, "The volume has to be great for it. It usually doesn't work well in rural areas." Selectmen suggested that if residents wanted to begin a recycling program, "that would be up to them." Linda Newcomb had several suggestions on where to drop off recyclables, such as newspapers at the high school or area redemption centers for bottles and cans. Ingersoll was asked by John Cook if waste disposal was taken in to Marion Transfer Station "from outside of the state," to which he answered, "No. The closest we've come in accepting any outside debris was some ground material for fill."

Turner said that work was continuing on the marking of veterans' stones and gravesites in Perry. John Spinney has been identifying the sites, and Frances Raye is documenting each name. Doug Curry is mapping the sites with GPS, and Turner said, "It's a lofty goal if he can get it done." Ken Heath is also part of the project.

Bids were accepted on used equipment located on Fred Erb's property and has earned Perry some income. A boom truck, smelter, crane and generator were sold. The Department of Environmental Protection will assess the Erb property on Gleason Cove Road in June. After receiving some other complaints about "junkyards" in town, selectmen said that they will be enforcing ordinance regulations and plan to "set up an evening to focus on solving this problem in Perry."

Selectmen accepted the lowest bid of $1,448 from Central Maine Fire Pro to make repairs and update the municipal building kitchen fire system. The kitchen will remain part of the building and will be in use for the annual Harvest Fair.

Kevin Rousseau of the Department of Transportation had met with Turner at Gleason Cove Park to discuss the future installation of a boat ramp. Turner stated, "Unfortunately, we had hoped to install a steel float, but grant money will not allow us to. Wood floats will be allowed, but it is not what we really want. So we will get an alternate bid for steel anyway and wait to see if we can afford this." Gerry Morrison recommended using steel instead of wood because "there is a chance it would rot out over time."

Road maintenance has been ongoing. Turner commented, "We are halfway through the 10-year plan on tarring roads. We'll need to look at having a road-by-road analysis to evaluate where we stand. We are behind in the 10-year plan by two years and will be looking into what we need to appropriate for funds to continue with the upkeep."

Three residents attending the meeting reported that street signs were taken stolen (sic) from their roads. Missing are signs for the Cook Road, Devereaux Road and Otis Lane. Any information can be reported to selectmen. The town's 911 coordinator, John Spinney, has also been notified.

The next Perry selectmen's meeting is on Monday, June 26, at 4 p.m. at the municipal building.


© 2006 The Quoddy Tides
Eastport, Maine
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.