2015-10-09 / Front Page

News Briefs

Town’s policy of charging for document copies questioned

Arundel selectmen got a snootfull at their most recent meeting over the town policy of charging for copies of public records.

Diane Robbins spoke up during the public comment portion of the meeting to complain about the policy after receiving notice of a Sept. 29 hearing by the zoning board of appeals, regarding the Dubois Livestock property.

As an abutter, Robbins has a vested interest in what happens along her lot line. However, when she called to find out what the hearing was about, she was told by town office staff it would cost her 50 cents per page to get copies of the records. The file in the case, she was told, had at least 150 pages.

“To me, as a taxpayer, that’s fundamentally wrong. If we’re supposed to provide comment, how are we supposed to comment if we can’t see it?” Robbins asked. “Now, I’m going to go to this meeting tomorrow and I’m not going to know what’s going on, and that’s wrong.”

However, Robbins was told she was notified of the meeting because she is an abutter, not because she would be asked for her input.

“That meeting is between the applicant and the ZBA,” Selectman Dan Dubois said. “It’s not necessarily a public hearing.”

“The documentation can be voluminous,” agreed Selectman Thomas Danylik, adding that Robbins could inspect the documents at town hall. Otherwise, he said, charging for copies, “had been the practice for as long as I’ve been around.”

However, Robbins complained she works when town hall is open.

The documents reportedly exist in electronic format, Robbins said, suggesting they could have been emailed to her, or t least posted on the town website, for all to see.

At the very least, she said, she could have been offered some minimal documentation, such as the abutters application to the town, or the planning boards findings of fact in the case, that led to the ZBA appeal.

“If we don’t have the ability to scan them and put them on the website, then we need to be able to get that information out without charging for it,” Selectman Velma Jones Hayes said. “She’s an abutter, not just any member of the public.”

“I’m just concerned about how far we go,” said Dobylik.

“Maybe up to five pages with no charge, if somebody’s that interested?” Jones Hayes said.

In the end, selectmen made no decision, other than to make note of Robbins’ complaint, while Town Manager Keith Trefethen offered to research the matter.

“We can see what our policies and procedure have been. If they need to be modified, that’s something you folks can certainly do,” he told the board. “I think there’s a lot here to discuss for how you’d like to proceed in the future.

High bid for fire truck engine repair is accepted

Arundel selectmen have voted unanimously to take the high bid to fix an engine in the town’s fire department fleet. Engine 303 is in need of frame repair, for which the town solicited three vendors, getting two bids back in reply.

One offer, from Chadwick-Baross of Westbrook, came in at $27,160. The other, submitted by Coastal Truck & Auto Body of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was for $27, 579.

However, both town manager Keith Trefethen and the town mechanic said Coastal Truck’s estimate was “more detailed,” adding, “They have a good work history.”

That was sufficient to elicit a 4-0 vote from the board in favor of Coastal Truck.

– Compiled by Staff Writer Duke Harrington.

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