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Planning Board Chairman Resigns
By: David Deschesne Fort Fairfield Journal, January 7,
By: David Deschesne
Fort Fairfield Journal, January 7, 2015
PERHAM, Maine—Tom Goodyear has resigned his position as chairman of the Perham Planning Board effective immediately. He has sold his home and is planning a move out of Perham over the next several months.
Goodyear cites ongoing, systemic problems in the town’s social fabric as one of the primary causes for his decision. “I am convinced that this town will not economically survive very long into the future if it continues to be run as it has for the past many years,” Goodyear wrote in his resignation letter. “The constant, active and, in my opinion, irresponsible acts of bitter divisiveness will, by themselves, destroy the town if only by virtue of making it a town that is unattractive to newcomers and, of course, as older residents pass on, a successful future is dependent upon attracting newcomers.”
Perham is a small town of around 400 people, few with any real experience at managing a town. “The town needs to face up to the social and economic realities of the current times. Managing even a small town has become much more complex over recent times. No longer can Perham be managed from Mr. Bragdon’s kitchen and no longer can it be well-managed by a few busy local citizens with little or no business background - not to mention no municipal management background. And it is ludicrous to expect that, for only a bit more than minimum wage and a few health benefits, the town can expect to attract and keep a person who manages to teach herself on the battleground of bitter Town politics how to become a qualified Town Manager.”
Another problem Goodyear cites is lack of effective leadership and experience within the town’s local government. “None of the current Selectmen of Perham are in any position to pretend to be able to run the Town and the fact that they are so divided on virtually every subject makes even the hope of success into a joke,” wrote Goodyear. “It is important to point out that I do have the greatest admiration and respect for all the current and prior Selectmen if only because of their willingness to take the job and to submit themselves to the burdens that come with the position and all the mouthy criticism that invariably accompanies the work that they try to do. But just having three people willing to accept the title of Selectman does not lead to a town that is managed well enough to survive.”
Due to the town’s small size, lack of expertise and dwindling tax base, Goodyear and others had been researching the possibility of merging Perham with Washburn, Woodland and Wade but have met with resistance from the Perham selectmen. “I have been overwhelmingly disappointed by the lack of interest on the part of the Selectmen of Perham to actively pursue the whole business of some sort of consolidation with Wade, Washburn and Woodland. There was absolutely nothing to lose by getting involved with the study and, potentially, everything in the world to gain. But I, along with the rest of the Planning Board and quite a bit of input from NMDC have totally failed to get anything more than passive indifference (at best!) from the Town Management toward all the efforts over the past 15 months or so. This ignorant, head-in-the-sand lack of response is downright scary, if you ask me. Here we have to our south a tri-town consolidation model that is by all accounts hugely successful. Neither I nor the Planning Board as a whole, nor NMDC has been able to get so much as a nod from the Selectmen with respect to all the work we have done toward this end.”
But the disinterest in Perham selectmen to entertain a merger is compounded by the other towns’ lack of desire to entertain such a merger. “It is quite clear that the reluctance on the part of Washburn and also to some degree on the part of Wade to leap very eagerly into the task of studying ways of consolidating efforts with Perham is, in fact, the result of the perception by these towns that Perham is a town suffering not only from poor management, but also sickly internal turmoil making our Town a potential partner with whom other towns are very hesitant to dance.”
Goodyear concluded his letter with a rhetorical blueprint for Perham’s future; “Just ask yourself what makes you think this town can afford to maintain its roads over the long term. As the tax burdens fall heavier and heavier every year upon the dwindling number of residents and to a greater and greater degree upon the fewer and fewer properties of significant value, ask yourself why more and more good, desirable residents won’t be moving out of town to, say, Mapleton. Modern economies of scale have simply developed to the point that a small town like Perham can not expect to survive on its own. It needs more sophisticated management than it can afford on its own; it needs more roads to be maintained by fewer pieces of modern equipment; it needs sophisticated, well-trained, well-paid office and public works personnel with bigger jobs to do than Perham can offer on its own. And, it needs a populace and a Board of Selectmen with the wisdom and maturity to recognize all this.”
Fort Fairfield Journal ©2015 David Deschesne, All Rights Reserved.