Slow pace of audit frustrates Buckfield officials

·3 min read

Jul. 22—BUCKFIELD — With the town already behind schedule in developing a budget for this fiscal year, which began July 1, interim Town Manager Bradley Plante expressed his frustration Tuesday evening at the Select Board meeting about the audit process that has yet to be resolved.

The absence of a town audit for 2020 is a problem Plante inherited when he stepped into the role May 11 following the resignation of Town Manager John Andrews. The town has had four town managers in the past year.

"This is a real problem for us," Plante said. "This audit should have been done the first of the year and here we are in July."

Plante had harsh words for the auditing firm of Ron L. Beaulieu & Company of Portland, which was hired by the Select Board the week before Plante arrived. The audit has proceeded at a crawl, with the auditor working by email, periodically requesting documents. According to Plante, the auditor has not visited the Town Office.

Plante said he has driven to the Portland office in an attempt to expedite the process, but to no avail.

"My professional opinion is that we made a mistake hiring this guy," Plante said.

Even without a completed audit, Plante is moving ahead with a draft budget that will be discussed Tuesday when the Select Board meets with the Budget Committee and department heads. If the three groups can come to an agreement, the budget referendum could be held in September. Any delay could create problems for the town setting the tax rate and sending out tax bills before the November due date.

Until a new budget is adopted and accepted by residents, the town operates under last year's numbers.

In other business, retired Fryeburg Town Manager Sharon Jackson of Oxford, who has also worked as a finance director, has been helping the town review its financial situation and reconcile its books for the past fiscal year, Plante said.

The town manager reminded residents not to remove metal from the metal container at the transfer station. Scrap metal, he said, is a revenue source for the town and its proceeds are used to help pay the costs of running the facility.

Russell Clark and Selectwoman Janet Iveson were named to the Economic Development Committee.

The board scheduled a workshop Aug. 5 to discuss the job description and salary for the next town manager.

Town Manager Joe Moore left last August for Rangeley. After Mitchell Berkowitz served as interim for three months, Andrews was hired last November before resigning in May, which is when Plante arrived.

A public hearing was held prior to the meeting on a new remote meeting policy. One member of the public complained that the t0wn wrote up its own policy instead of using the language developed by the Maine Municipal Association.

Plante denied that, holding up a copy of the policy he received from the MMA. However the two policies did not match, forcing the board to postpone action until it could be researched.

The same resident also complained that she could not find copies of the agenda or the packet of documents that the board uses at the meetings anywhere online. With the Town Office closed Mondays, she said it makes it difficult for the public to get information in a timely manner before a meeting.

Board Chairwoman Cheryl Coffman said the board would look into it and discuss it further at a future meeting.

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