ST. ALBANS – This week will be busy, polemical and telling for this politically divided town, which has struggled for months as residents aligned themselves either with a former town manager or the current board of selectmen.
Voting will be held Friday, March 3, for three selectmen’s seats, and seven candidates have stepped forward. The annual town meeting will be held Saturday.
But instead of waiting until those voters’ decisions are made, the two current selectmen will interview a new town manager candidate on Wednesday morning.
Because town officials never advertised the position and are proceeding with what appears to be a single candidate just three days before the town meeting, their actions are further polarizing the community, according to residents.
Board Chairman Daniel Hanson said Monday that he had been “just putting off” advertising and that the name of the potential candidate was passed on to him and he set up Wednesday’s interview.
“She submitted her resume, and we set up the interview,” he said. “That is all it is. The time was convenient for her.”
Hanson said it was unlikely that anyone would be hired before Saturday’s town meeting.
The town official clarified through the Maine Municipal Association that advertising for a town manager position was not required by state statute and bemoaned the atmosphere in town.
“There are fabrications, fiction and lies going around,” he said. “It is so sad, some of the stories going around St. Albans.”
The town has been divided since last fall when the two current selectmen refused to renew the contract of 27-year veteran Town Manager Larry Post. At the heart of the controversy, according to the board, was whether Post acted in the best interests of the community during a recent eminent domain action.
If a new board of selectmen is elected, residents here expect Post to be reinstated as town manager, which will prompt him to drop a $450,000 lawsuit against the former board for a violation of due process during his firing.
Seven candidates will be on Friday’s ballot, including Selectman Wolfgang “Gus” Fasse and Hanson who will be seeking their third terms. Both ran unopposed last year.
The other five candidates are Peter Denbow, Francis Fruchtenicht, William Keating – all new to local politics -Curt Lombard, a former selectman and Perley Martin, who previously served on the SAD 48 board.
Interim Town Manager “Bert” Taylor said Monday that the proposed $1.78 million 2006 budget, which will be voted on Saturday, represents only a 1.5 percent increase over 2005.
Key accounts that showed increases include county tax, general government, legal expenses, debt and interest for road paving, and health and welfare. Also included is a one-time $45,071 removal payment to Post, part of his 2005 contract.
Voters also will decide on putting $10,000 in a reserve fund for a new fire station and vote on a new ordinance that would require filling municipal vacancies that occur more than 120 days before the annual town meeting through a special election.
Revenues are expected to increase by only $5,000 but the town will save more than $20,000 in ambulance costs since Sebasticook Valley Hospital has taken over the local service.
“It is excellent that the budget was able to be held like this,” Taylor said.