FARMINGTON — A property tax abatement appeal between Peter Axelson and Rangeley Plantation was presented to the Franklin County Commissioners during the meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 21.
Axelson, a long-time landowner in Rangeley Plantation, stated that a parcel of his property had been overvalued for seventeen years and that he had requested an abatement from Rangeley Plantation for the overpayment of the last three years. He said that the municipality had not responded to his appeal within the required timeframe, so he brought it to the county.
Rangeley Plantation representatives spoke against his claims and said that he had not provided the information they had requested.
After hearing part of the appeal Commissioner Terry Brann said that the issue was above their pay grade and they would not make a ruling on it, and requested that discussions cease.
“You both have got arguments, good arguments,” Commissioner Clyde Barker said. He agreed with Commissioner Brann that the issue was beyond the commissioners.
The commissioners voted to take no action on the issue.
A series of four executive sessions were held. Following a meeting with legal counsel the commissioners agreed to move forward with mediation and appoint Commissioner Brann as their representative. There was no action taken following a session regarding a grievance appeal. There were two separate executive sessions regarding personnel matters: one for the sheriff’s office patrol division, and one for the county clerk. The commissioners voted to approve a lateral transfer at the sheriff’s office pending the outcome of an interview. They also agreed to hold another meeting on September 28 to meet with the lawyer in executive session in relation to the county clerk position.
There were two items related to Maine Public Employees Retirement System for the commissioners to review again: one for opting-in to Maine PERS, and one for officers at the sheriff’s department who wanted to buy back time towards their retirement. The commissioners agreed to table the opt-in question for another meeting, and voted against performing a study to determine the costs of buying back time at the sheriff’s office. Commissioner Terry Brann said that he would not support buying back the time so he saw no reason to spend the money on the study.
Sheriff Scott Nichols requested that the commissioners give flexibility in the hiring process for a new cook at the county jail; the current starting pay is lower than someone may potentially earn at McDonald’s, and he wanted to be able to pay an increased wage that would be more consistent with someone’s skill level should that be appropriate. The commissioners would still have final approval over the new hire and wages, but agreed to give flexibility in the interviewing and hiring process.
District Attorney Andrew Robinson asked for approval to rotate his officer staff through the office to limit potential exposures during the current surge in COVID-19 cases. His proposal would still have someone in the office to meet the needs of the public, but would allow other staff members to work remotely. He expected this would run through the month of October. The commissioners approved the plan.
The county currently has 83 employees, so they are not expected to fall under the new federal guidelines for vaccine or testing requirements; the commissioners agreed to follow the CDC guidelines which recommend masking and distancing, and not implement additional requirements at this time.