Blue Hill voters to decide whether road commissioner should be appointed

BLUE HILL Voters will be asked during the annual Town Meeting warrant referendum whether they want to have the Board of Selectmen appoint a road commissioner instead of the current practice of electing one.

The annual Town Meeting will be held via secret ballot on Tuesday, April 20, from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. at the Blue Hill Consolidated School Gymnasium.

Selectman Jim Dow said the Budget Committee is proposing the change.

“This change has been urged by our Budget Committee as a way to better integrate the town’s road budgeting plans and the execution of the work,” said Dow. “It is definitely not intended as a referendum on the performance of our current road commissioner. We agreed to put it to a vote since many other Maine towns, including Brooksville at its meeting earlier this month, have made this change as a forward-thinking, good government proposal.”

Bill Cousins, who has been the town’s elected road commissioner for the past nine years, opposes the change.

“I’m against it, just for the simple fact that you’re taking the right away from the voters,” said Cousins. “I don’t think that’s right in any case. It should be up to the voters of Blue Hill to decide who they want to do certain jobs.” 

Switching to an appointed position will cost more, Cousins said.

“That’s just going to take money away from the roads,” he said. “We need every dollar we can get to go into our roads, not this type of stuff. There was an hourly rate I could have charged, but I never did.”

Cousins has worked for health insurance and does not charge the town for going to meetings, listening to complaints, checking roads and drawing up plans for roadwork.

“I thought that was a fair trade, and I thought that was fair to the town,” Cousins said.

During a public hearing on Monday about the warrant articles, residents spoke in favor of keeping the position an elected one. 

“The more we appoint the less involved community members will be,” said Rebecca Wentworth of Blue Hill. 

Jim Bergin and Judy Garvey of Blue Hill are not in favor of the proposed change.

“We feel that Blue Hill voters are better represented by an elected, independent road commissioner, rather than an appointee who could be construed as a preferential choice of the board, not the voters,” said Garvey. 

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.

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