FREEPORT – The Freeport Shellfish Conservation Commission got a piece of what it wanted when the Town Council passed its 2015 municipal budget last week. The police department, meanwhile, got something it hadn’t requested.

The Town Council on June 17 approved $15,000 for a part-time shellfish coordinator position. The council also voted to allocate $56,500 to pay for a new police officer, in an effort to reduce the amount of overtime coming out of the department. A sum of $4,000 was taken out of the overtime budget, and the council trimmed the boat maintenance line for the police department by $1,000.

Town Manager Peter Joseph said that in all, the council added $66,500 to the municipal budget, for a new bottom line of $9,844,732. The council also passed a $2.4 million capital budget and $247,000 for tax-increment financing.

That new budgets will add 10 cents to the tax rate, instead of the 6 cents in the original budget, Joseph said.

Joseph said that the Town Council will need to confer with the shellfish commission in order to determine more details regarding the position. The duties could become part of Shellfish Warden Tom Kay’s job, or the shellfish coordinator could be a part-time position on its own, Joseph said.

“That $15,000 is essentially a placeholder,” Joseph said. “We’ve got to go through a little bit of a process here.”

The shellfish commission already has gone through quite a process of its own. Originally, the commission had proposed a regional shellfish coordinator involving other nearby fishing towns, with the focus on conservation, especially on the clamming industry. Clammers in Freeport and all along the Maine coast are in crisis mode as green crabs feed on their livelihood. Sara Randall, a consultant for the Maine Clammers Association hired by the commission, had written a detailed job description for a regional coordinator.

The commission abruptly changed its budget request from a regional to a town position two months ago. Earlier this month, Randall told the council that a municipal shellfish coordinator position might be funded for around $20,000.

The Freeport shellfish coordinator job description calls for someone “responsible for enforcing the shellfish ordinance as well as defining, coordinating, executing projects for Freeport’s Municipal Shellfish Program. The coordinator will develop, implement and oversee a Shellfish Conservation Program that meets the needs of modern shellfish management.”

Further, the coordinator would be responsible for “scientifically accurate shellfish stock surveys, oversight of municipal resources, securing and administering financial resources for restoration and enhancement, development of an ongoing stakeholder education and outreach program, and assisting the Shellfish Commission with administrative needs.”

Chad Coffin, president of the Maine Clammers Association, is taking a wait-and-see attitude regarding the Town Council decision, he said.

Coffin said that the $15,000 should be added to redefine the warden’s position, rather than for a separate part-time job.

“If they’re hiring someone in addition to someone they already have,” Coffin said, “that would reflect a resistance to change. “The warden only enforces 15 hours a week, so what about the other 25? I would rather see the money go toward the current program.”

The council decision to dedicate $56,500 for a new police officer, Joseph said, was in reaction to the $100,000 in overtime costs at the police department.

The town will not see savings immediately, he said.

“The Town Council asked the department to eliminate some of that overtime by hiring another officer,” Joseph said. “We can’t save a lot of that this year because we’ve already got two new officers training. The hope is for $30,000-$40,000 less in the overtime next year. That will depend a lot on when they can hire somebody, and when they can go to the (Maine Criminal Justice) Academy.”


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