by Nancy Beal
At their annual town meeting next week, Jonesporters will get a chance to decide whether to keep electing their assessors, town treasurer/clerk/tax collector—a combined post that has morphed into an office manager—or to give the selectmen the power to appoint them. Neither change would take effect immediately; if approved, the appointment of the assessors would not become effective until next year’s town meeting, and that of the treasurer/clerk/tax collector would be on hold until 2023. (Tonia Merchant currently holds that post and is up for election to another three-year term next week.)
The impetus for the change, explained Selectman Harry Fish last week, came from the board of assessors, who wrote to the selectmen late last year suggesting the change. In their annual report that is included in the town report, Jean Guptill, Barbie Cirone and Glenda Farren lay out their reasons for requesting consideration of an appointed board. “The assessor’s office needs more than just a neighbor [who] may care very deeply for the town, yet has no knowledge of the actual job, or to vote someone in because no one wants the job,” they wrote. Because of increased state requirements and required expertise, they wrote, “It is becoming more evident that every town should have a certified assessor or assessor agent [who] is trained in the field of assessing.”
The warrant articles that call for consideration of the changes are the last two on the 40-article warrant. They state that the selectmen “shall determine the salary, hours and working conditions of the [officials, who] may be removed…for cause after notice and hearing.” They conclude by stating that such cause may not be based on any disagreement with an official employing generally accepted and lawful practices of the office.
Fish said his board, which includes Dwight Alley and Billy Milliken—who is also up for another three-year term—took a “serious look” at the suggestion from the assessors, deemed the office manager position to be equally deserving of a quasi-professional, and agreed that the idea for both should go before the voters.
The change, he said, would allow winnowing of applicants to take place. “If the town agrees,” he said, “we could take applications, check credentials and do interviews to filter out viable candidates. No one is stepping forward to take positions,” he added, hinting that the vacuum could lead to unqualified volunteers filling important posts.
Jonesport’s town meeting starts at 3:30 p.m. next Monday, March 9.