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Public chastises county subcommittees for secret meetings

First pass county budget is up 5%, needs to be cut to 1%

December 08, 2011
OSSIPEE — Though not under the control of the county commissioners, they listened to the public's frustration about delegation not keeping minutes of their subcommittee minutes.

"That's delegation stuff. I understand that [one meeting] was not posted. That's their job. It's not our responsibility," said Sorensen.

All but one of the county delegates have been assigned to various subcommittees. These groups work as a liaison between the full delegation and the six county departments. The goal is to have the subcommittees fully versed on the operations and budget needs.

"I was wondering if minutes could be taken when you have subcommittee meetings so the public can be aware of what goes on at the meetings," said Brookfield resident Ed Comeau.

Jail subcommittee chairman David Babson agreed minutes should be taken if the videotapes are not good enough record of the meeting. He said it is difficult to take minutes and focus on running a meeting.

Wakefield resident Steve Brown said that not everyone has access to the internet and videos played on the internet should not be counted on to convey public information to the public. "That's a public meeting so minutes need to be taken," said Brown.

"There seems to be a disconnect between what goes on in the subcommittee meetings and what goes on at the delegation meetings," said Comeau, who added work needs to be done to have better communication between the subcommittees, delegation and the commissioners.

Sorensen suggested those concerned with the delegation's compliance with the state's right-to-know law take the issue to the delegation's next meeting.

2012 Budget

The commissioners were charged with bringing in a bottom line proposed budget for 2012 that is no more than one percent higher than the 2011 budget. As of their Nov. 29 meeting, commissioners were looking at a budget that is five percent higher and planned to work at getting it down to the one percent.

As part of cost cutting measures, commissioners are planning to recommend limiting raises for county employees to 30 cents per hour.

There was a policy, as a result of previous union contracts, approved by prior commissioners to allow $125 clothing allowance for all county employees. Commissioners have decided that all non-union employees are not reimbursed $125 for clothes unless they are required to wear a uniform of some type. Non-union employees include department heads such as the nursing home administrator and sheriff who do not wear uniforms to work.

Registrar of Deeds Ann Aiton questioned another perk. Who gets free lunch? Sorensen did not answer her question, but it would come to light at the jail subcommittee meeting later in the day that all nursing home and jail staff are provided a free meal for whatever meals falls during their shift – breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. Cutting the clothing allowance, not providing free meals to her staff, and reducing the raises for 2012 to 30 cents per hour is disproportionately unfair to her department employees as compared to other county employees.

Sorensen said she is free to take her concerns to the next county delegation meeting and plead her case there.

Klumb Environmenta;
Varney Smith
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