Libbey resigns

September 4, 2007 by

Alison Libbey resigned from the Town Council Tuesday night, leaving a spot to be filled by appointment.
Folks will be asked once again place their names in the hat. Someone will then be chosen by the council to fill Alison’s seat through June, 2009.

Alison announced she’s sold her house and is moving away from Gray. She thanked everyone for their support after the death of her husband about six months ago.

This leaves Andy Upham temporarily in charge as vice-chair.

I’ll be very interested to see whom the Council chooses, and who is named as the next Council chair.

A possible conflict

August 23, 2007 by

After my tirade about Gary Foster’s “character assassination” two weeks ago (see below), I was pleasantly surprised to see the folks from Twin Brooks Camping Area show up at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting and describe their version of inappropriate actions by Kyle Coolidge and John Redlon.

It’s one thing to refer to questions about someone’s “ethics”. It’s quite another to present the facts as you see them and allow the public to draw their own conclusions. I think the Twin Brooks folks got it right on Tuesday with their statements.

BUT (and you knew this was coming!), this presents an interesting conflict for Gary Foster.

You see, Twin Brooks is not innocent of wrongdoing. While Coolidge, Redlon and campground neighbors may be stretching the bounds of appropriate behaviour if not stepping over the line into illegal activity in their opposition to Twin Brooks’ expansion, the Zoning Board of Appeals recently determined Twin Brooks has violated ordinances here in Gray.

On Tuesday, the folks from Twin Brooks referred to my “character assassination” and apologized for putting Gary Foster into the position in which he found himself. But Gary is now on the Planning Board here in Gray. He has an obligation to stay separate from undue influence and look at the big picture for everyone here in Gray.

Gary espouses free will and the right to do with your land as you wish. The statements by the Twin Brooks folks on Tuesday give the appearance of support for Gary. I certainly hope he does not in turn support the breaking of town rules that apply all our citizens.

Does this have the appearance of a conflict of interest for Gary?

Architectural design standards

August 23, 2007 by

I’m delighted to see that Gray has taken a step into the future with a proposal to create architectural design standards for the town.

In a presentation at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, Jeanne Adams, Chair of the Village Master Plan Advisory Committee, described problems with buildings in our town that present a willy-nilly and sometimes unkempt look.

She described buildings in town with clearly-visible rooftop air conditioning units, and she showed photographs of dumpsters left out in the open beside parking lots. Her committee has presented a 100-page document to the town’s planning boards to suggest standards that will bring some semblance of order to the town’s look.

One of the things to be considered is the type of look our citizens’ would like. Personally, I’d like to see us push for a colonial style. Of course, I happen to live in a two-hundred year old house . . .

What are your thoughts? Should Gray take on a Freeport look? Should we try for a style such as that found in the Old Port in Portland? Take a few minutes to think about what YOU want to see in Gray’s future, and share those thoughts with Gray’s committee members.

Character Assassination

August 8, 2007 by

Gary Foster, former Chair of Gray’s Town Council, just can’t open his mouth without inserting his foot.

He was at Tuesday’s meeting to answer questions about his appointment to a town committee. He spoke in support of several motions.

And he also spoke against two motions, accusing Kyle Coolidge of bad ethics and accusing the Little Sebago Lake Association of bad faith in possibly preventing town residents’ access to the lake.

This innuendo and these accusations are highly innappropriate. If Foster has any specifics, he should present them to the public. His tactics smack of the antics of Councilor former Monument newspaper editor Elizabeth Prata.

Thankfully, the Council looked past Foster’s attempts at character assassination and passed both motions. Coolidge is appointed to a three-year term on the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the LSLA was approved for a $10,000 payment to help control milfoil infestation.

Foster’s small-minded antics are a shameful display.

Referendum results

August 1, 2007 by

By a vote of 1,160 YES to 1,040 NO (and 2 spoiled ballots) Gray’s voters approved the addition of Area 8 to the town’s Comprehensive Plan.

Election results

June 13, 2007 by

Here is a link to the town’s election results

Deborah Mancini and Margaret Hutchins won seats on the Town Council, and will be sworn in on Tuesday, June 19.

The Council decision to hire Cumberland County for dispatch services was ratified by the voters. All the questions on the ballot were approved, including the town and school district budgets.

Voting on the Council’s change to the Comprehensive Plan will take place on July 31.

Only about 880 voters participated, out of 5,500 on the rolls.

Fiscal responsibility, Council style

May 14, 2007 by

One example among many. From Ray’s May 11 GIN report on some of the discussion on Article 3 at Town Meeting:

Discussion of the sidewalk issue centered around whether the Town had a plan for the sidewalk project. Asked what the sidewalk portion would eventually cost, Councilor Skip Crane said it would be $485,000; a few minutes later, Councilor Andrew Upham told the audience the cost would be $1.1 million (“I don’t know where the $485,000 came from”, he said.)

The downtown revitalization warrant never actually mentioned sidewalks, only an “infrastructure improvement program for downtown revitalization as identified in the Village Master Plan”. Nevertheless, Article 3 was promoted as sidewalk and crosswalk money, and that was the question on the floor at Town Meeting. People wanted to know what the project would cost. But the Council couldn’t agree on an answer.

Crane’s $485,000 figure probably came from the Village Master Plan itself, or at least the version that’s available on the Town website (“Town Master Plan“), which crosslinks to the report’s authors, GPCOG. Here’s the Infrastructure Summary on page 11:

Sidewalks: $429,400
Center medians: $21,600
Stripe bike lanes: $3,200
Narrow travel lanes: $11,200
Total: $465,400

Crane was pretty close. But here’s the upshot: $465,400 isn’t the working number. Last winter, a review of the VMP’s cost projections by town engineers – reportedly at Upham’s request – kicked the estimate up to $1.05 million, and the VMP was allegedly amended to reflect this change. But nobody ever updated the website link. Any citizen who made a good-faith effort to understand this complex issue remained misinformed on a key aspect of the project, practically up to the moment they were asked to vote on it.

So let’s review:

1. Town Council asks citizens to approve a $200,000 down payment for a controversial, expensive, largely undefined project whose funding has been explicitly tied to a reduction in regular town services like road maintenance.

2. An outdated version of the VMP report containing wildly inaccurate cost data remains on the town website for months;

3. When asked about cost at Town Meeting, councilors offer conflicting answers, differing by more than 100%;

4. Upham claims he doesn’t know where Crane’s lower number came from, though it was essentially in the original report, and was the basis for a second opinion;

5. Upham doesn’t share the updated estimate with fellow councilors and most of the public while promoting the expenditure relentlessly;

6. Citizens become aware of the radically higher estimate only minutes before they must approve initial funds;

7. Warrant fails overwhlmingly;

8. Councilors mutter insults about tightfisted citizens and Foster suggests abolishing Town Meeting.

Your dysfunctional Town Council in action.

Results from Town Meeting

May 6, 2007 by

From Lynn Olson:

For those of you who were unable to attend town meeting, I would like to try to summarize some of the actions of the citizens during the 5 ½ hours. Those people who assumed that town meeting would no longer be a valid exercise due to the final budget approval coming at the June election must have been quite surprised. The $200,000 plan to revitalize downtown using unrestricted fund balance (UFB) was defeated soundly, as was the plan to take the surplus balance of the Penn Cable account of $200,000 to offset the budget. The transfer of $116,000 from UFB to public safety capital reserves was approved.

The warrant article to approved the lump sum of expenditures was also defeated so articles 8 through 15 were discussed to look at groupings of expenditures with the following results:

Administrative Services reductions of 102,737 were made to proposed a budget of 625,578.64

Municipal Finance reductions of 5,000 were made 1,455,723.44

Leisure and Information Services unchanged 289,921.92

Public Safety unchanged 610,587.54

Public Works unchanged 1,672,832.07

council, boards, committees unchanged 53,800

Stimson Hall unchanged 7,940

community service agencies unchanged 45,912.80

The $3.2M bond request was approved overwhelmingly, with a round of applause for the excellent work of the public works and recycling departments.

The article to permanently raise the limit of the tax level cap was amended to limit the increase to $2.2M, a reduction of over $540,000.

With the loss of the Penn Cable revenues to offset the tax rate and the cuts that were identified and approved with the articles, my updated spreadsheet says that the town may still have to find around $107,875 in cuts to come in under the $2.2 million dollar tax levy cap. Plus they need to determine where the cuts that were approved within the departmental articles will be made.

So there is still quite a bit of budget work to be done by the council either before or after the budget ballot is prepared for vote on June 12th. If you are interested in certain departments within the town, then you may want to stay apprised of the discussion and support the town staff as they deliberate these decisions.

Thanks to everyone who attended town meeting and made their wishes known. You did a good job!



Julie Sheets said:

I just wanted to extend a very public “thank you” to Lynn Olson for all of the hard work she did both at the Town Meeting as well as the many, many hours of preliminary work she did on the budget. Lynn demonstrated that she has both a deep understanding of municipal finances — well beyond the abilities of any sitting councilor — as well as a true commitment to the betterment of this town. Lynn did the citizens of Gray great service and even won a public “thank you” from none other than Janet Neal.

Thank you Lynn — we truly couldn’t have done it without you!


A good day for the citizens of Gray

May 6, 2007 by

I was out of town on Saturday, so I missed Town Meeting. Too bad. I’m told the event was interesting and productive. Seems the public had to take matters into its own hands and show our reckless town council a thing or two about fiscal responsibility. Thank you to everyone who attended and participated. I expect Andy Upham will place blame for his failure of leadership on some innocent town employee, and denounce the citizens of Gray as ignorant worms who don’t know what’s in their own self-interest.

Thanks for the pat on the back!

May 3, 2007 by

A quick Thank You to our fellow bloggers for mentioning this new blog. It’s humbling to get such respect from our fellow citizens.

In fact, one blogger is so delighted with this new blog, she’s copied most of my postings and given some delightful commentary! Bravo!

I’ll continue to keep Gray posted on the happenings in our town, bouyed by the knowledge so many people depend on my writings.

Blog on!