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Wakefield's town planner resigns

November 12, 2009
WAKEFIELD — With "extreme regret," selectmen accepted the resignation of the town planner on Tuesday night.

Town Planner Kathy Menici's resignation will become effective on Dec. 4. Menici is leaving her post to take a position with the town of Farmington. She was hired in Wakefield in June of 2007, said Selectmen's Chair Mark Duffy.

Menici's letter described the criticism surrounding the creation of her position as "discouraging and demoralizing." Selectmen created the planner position during the budget process in 2007, the year after voters rejected an advisory warrant article calling for a full-time planner, said Duffy. Since then, a number of residents have questioned how and why she was hired. The planning board unanimously supported the position. Hiring its own planner allowed the town to terminate its contract for a circuit rider with the Strafford Regional Planning Commission, which had provided planning counsel in the past.

"I think it's very unfortunate how this resignation is coming through," said Duffy after reading the letter aloud. "I think her position was very much needed in town."

Planning Board member Donna Faucette said she was disappointed with the way residents made Menici feel unwelcome.

"In every meeting this woman was berated," said Faucette. "It was really uncomfortable."

Faucette also said having a town planner kept the planning board from making mistakes that would lead to expensive court battles. Selectmen will be meeting with the planning board to decide what to do next, said Duffy. The resignation would likely stall town's efforts to update the master plan.

Options include hiring a new full-time person, a part-time person, or contracting for service. But in the past, the town has not had any luck finding a part-time planner, said Duffy.

Planning Board Chair Rod Cools said the planning board members need a planner or an attorney because board members don't have professional level training and expertise.

"None of us are prepared to make rules out of a hat," said Cools.

However, resident Relf Fogg wondered why anyone would run for the planning board if he or she did not have enough knowledge and experience to do the job.

"It's not a social club where you sit around and talk about silly things," said Fogg.

Cools responded when an applicant comes in with an attorney it can be intimidating for board members. The town planner is responsible for doing legal research and providing board members with advice.

But still, resident Dick Wessell said he doesn't think the town really needs a full-time planner. Wessell said he based his opinion on her workload. Jerry O'Connor said he had confidence the planning board could do its job with some help from the Local Government Center in Concord, and or an experienced secretary.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Town of Alexandria
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