News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, September 27, 2012
Blue Hill selectman’s seat to remain vacant until annual town meeting

Newly elected Chairman of the Board, Jim Schatz

Newly elected Chairman of the Board, Jim Schatz, at left, conducts the board’s first meeting without Duane Gray. He and fellow selectman John Bannister will not call for a special election to replace Gray, but will rather wait for the next town meeting election cycle to fill the vacancy.

Photo by Faith DeAmbrose Order prints of selected PBP photos.

With the town office still reeling from the sudden death of Blue Hill’s Chairman of the Board of Selectmen last week, the remaining members of the board say they will not seek a special election to replace Duane Gray.

Gray, who died on September 16, had been elected to his third three-year term at the annual town meeting in April. Last Friday, in the first meeting since his death, the town hall’s flag stood at half mast and the space between the remaining selectmen, where Gray usually sat, was filled with flowers, cards and well wishes from across the greater Blue Hill Peninsula.

“It is gratifying and comforting to see all the flowers and cards and to receive all the kind words from Blue Hill and all over from the loss we’ve experienced. And it keeps on coming,” said Selectman Jim Schatz.

At their regular meeting selectmen Schatz and John Bannister said they would work together to solve the town’s problems until the next town meeting election takes place. At that time, nomination papers would be released for the remaining two years of Gray’s term, as well as a three-year term up for rotation, currently held by Schatz who at the meeting on September 21 said he plans to run again.

From the audience, Sherman Hutchins of Penobscot, who said he attended the meeting after seeing Gray the previous Friday and being encouraged by Gray to attend, said he thought the selectmen were doing the wise thing by not seeking to fill the seat.

“The townspeople already told you what they wanted you to do at town meeting,” he said. “You need time to digest this.”

Bannister nominated Schatz as chairman of the board; Schatz said he would accept, and the two cast their first unanimous vote, placing Schatz as chairman.

The selectmen will seek to fill a position left vacant by the death of another town hall employee, Deputy Town Clerk and Tax Collector Janet Torrey who also died suddenly the day before Gray. “While no one can ever replace Janet,” said Schatz, “we do have to fill the position.” An ad has been placed in this week’s paper to begin the search process, which is expected to take several weeks.

In other business the selectmen heard a request from resident Richard Avery to consider the closure of a portion of Union Street to allow pedestrian-only traffic on Halloween. Avery said he sent a letter to the residents who would be affected and heard positive comments back from six and “not in favor” from one.

The selectmen briefly discussed this and said they would speak with others in the community as well. Constable Dave Gulya suggested the possibility of closing a portion of the road to create a walking lane. Gulya who is also a member of the fire department said it is often difficult to close a roadway, and is typically not met favorably by drivers trying to get through town.

The board awarded a bid for the roof of the fire station to G.R. Roofing at a cost of approximately $9,400. The Bangor company was one of several bidders for the project and while they were close to having the lowest bid, their bid contained “an additional modification” that the other bids did not, said Schatz. The company will put a slight pitch in the center of the neoprene roof to allow for better drainage.

According to Road Commissioner Billy Cousins, traffic moves across the new High Street Bridge at a rather rapid pace and seems to be concentrated to after school hours. Cousins, who has been stationed at the bridge during its recent reconstruction, said he has noticed traffic moving at rates of speed higher than the 15 miles per hour posted for a school zone. “Anytime you make a roadway better, speed increases,” said Bannister, who suggested that the selectmen and the road commissioner could have a conversation with officials at George Stevens Academy.

The board of selectmen will next meet on Friday, September 28, at 1:05 p.m. at the town hall.