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Mechanic Falls, town manager still at odds over contract

MECHANIC FALLS — The saga of Town Manager Zakk Maher’s contract continues.

After approving the language last month to resolve the discrepancy in the length of Maher’s contract with the Town Charter, the Town Council was presented the new contract prepared by the town’s attorney Monday night for a final vote. The council failed to ratify it.

The lack of action means Maher will continue to serve under the original contract, which violates the charter.

Last month, the board agreed to offer Maher a new two-year contract in order to correct an embarrassing error when they offered Maher a four-year contract when the Town Charter only allowed for a three-year deal. To resolve the issue, the council voted to end the current contract and offer a new two-year deal under the same terms.

The new deal met the rules of the charter and continued to give Maher a four-year commitment.

But in reviewing the new three-page contract, Councilor Rose Aikman objected to the language that said, “the council waives the requirement of the Town Charter to live within the town.” Aikman said the charter does not give the council the power to waive a requirement in the charter.

Maher said he lives with his family two miles beyond the Mechanic Falls town line.

“Why is this now an issue?” asked Maher, who has served as town manager since 2018.

It was suggested that a solution would be to get rid of the word “waive” and amend the contract to say it would extend his permission to serve until the end of the current contract in 2022.

Councilor Tarsha Downing suggested that the board postpone action on it for another month to have the town’s attorney review that change, but she received no support from the rest of the council. Councilor John Emery then proposed approving the new contract with the new wording added, but that failed by a 2-3 vote, with just Emery and Chairman Kieth Bennett voting yes.

No other proposal was offered, leaving Maher serving under the terms of some councilors say is an illegal contract.

In other business, the town agreed to hire Androvise Realty to sell the town property at 22 Pleasant St.  Androvise, which suggested a selling price of $399,900 and a 5% commission, was selected over three other bids that ranged from $550,000 to $325,000. The building was originally listed for more than $500,000 but received no interest at that price.

The former Mechanic Falls Family Practice Center, an urgent care clinic opened in 2004 by Central Maine Healthcare in Lewiston, closed in September 2017. The town bought the building in November 2017 with the idea of moving municipal offices, the police department and the library there. The $500,000 purchase was financed with a municipal bond, which included $224,500 to pay the loan on the Municipal Building on Lewiston Street.

A structural engineer later determined the medical building could not adequately accommodate all the town offices.

The council also accepted a bid from Emerson Chevrolet for a new one-ton, double-cab pickup truck with plow for $38,693, with $19,000 trade-in for the current vehicle.

Maher announced that Lisa Prevost has returned to serve as town treasurer after leaving a couple of months ago for a similar job with the town of Oxford.

The town agreed to hire Nancy Petersons as election warden and Janice Hunter, Stephen Turner and Lorrie Rand to serve as election clerks next month.

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