News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, March 14, 2019
Blue Hill to vote on town administrator position

by Anne Berleant

For the 20-odd citizens who attended a public meeting February 27, the idea of adding a town administrator to local government found favor, but with concerns.

With Selectman Jim Schatz, who handles much of the day-to-day tasks of running the town, stepping down April 6, the board is asking voters to fund the town administrator position in a referendum vote April 5.

“The best way moving forward is to hire and train and invest in a town administrator to act at the direction of the select board but have feet on the ground for all these matters,” Schatz said.

Schatz, on the board for 24 years, spends 30 hours and upward per week on town duties, at the selectmen’s hourly rate of $12.

While those present acknowledged the gap that Schatz’s departure would bring, many had questions about the town administrator’s authority, relationship with selectmen, and qualifications.

One woman wondered whether it would be “the job from hell.”

The referendum proposes raising $60,000 from property tax to fund the position for the remainder of 2019. But selectmen said the total, annual cost could be as high as $80,000 with health insurance and fringe benefits.

Having a town administrator—a more fluid position than a town manager, whose role is bound by state statute—would free up selectmen to work on other projects, Selectman Ellen Best said.

“The harbor, the playground renovation, there are so many things in this town we could be doing, I feel, if we had a town administrator that could help us on that path,” Best said. “It’s one part of the solution.”

As proposed, and if approved, selectmen would select and hire a town administrator, whose responsibilities would include administering the adopted budget, supervising town employees, advising the town and public on the status of town affairs, carrying out the directives of the board of selectmen, monitoring the town’s financial affairs, serving as approval agent for town purchasing, apart from the fire department, and applying for grants on behalf of the town.

“There’s a lot to it,” Selectman Vaughn Leach said. “We’ve been lucky for 35 to 40 years to have talented people who had time to commit to this.”

Voting on the referendum, a straw poll on a local road bond, and town elections, including Schatz’s replacement, is Friday, April 5, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at town hall.