Back to Fort Fairfield Journal      WFFJ-TV      Contact Us






Fort Fairfield Town Council Chair Squelches Taxpayer Outcry on Reval


Pledges Full Support for the Town Manager


By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, April 21, 2021


FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine - After several months of questioning the town’s reval process and budget during the public comment period of the town council meetings, a large group of Fort Fairfield taxpayers appeared to be politically neutered after a harsh public scolding by Fort Fairfield town council chairman, Mitch Butler at the April 13, 2020 meeting, which was held over a week earlier than scheduled.

   As town council chairman, Butler opened the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting with a statement addressing his concerns from those disgruntled taxpayers who have called the recent revaluation process into question due to some glaring inconsistencies by the private contractor who the town hired to conduct the reval.

   “I see floating around, there's a letter to the taxpayers about the increase of our budget, which we haven't seen yet.  There's a lot of misinformation,” said Butler to the crowd of a little more than a dozen people in attendance.  “There's rumors going around town, it's just atrocious that they said this council does not represent the taxpayers of Fort Fairfield.  Well, we do.  We've got a town manager who's been put through the grind over and over again.  She presents us; the budget, we approve the budget and once the budget's approved she sees that it stays within the realm of what we approved.”

   Butler then dealt with the allegation that the town is overspending beyond what the council had approved last summer.  “Now, it's been said that we're overspending so the town manager got the department heads together, presented the budgets and every budget that was presented was under budget.  So there was no wasteful tax money being spent,” said Butler.  “That being said, she needs the support of the town council and she has.  I've seen her raked over the coals for something that she's been accused of that she has not been doing. 

   Butler said it's an unfortunate fluke of timing town manager, Andrea Powers took on the job when she did because it was coming in to a revaluation process that hadn't been updated for over twenty years.   “She came to this town of Fort Fairfield really at a bad time and we haven't had a reval, which hasn't been done for twenty-some years.  Had we done the reval when it was supposed to be done, every five or six years we wouldn't have had all these problems we have today.”

   He also talked about the changes in people's tax bills, some of which had more than doubled while similar properties disparately decreased or remained the same.  “Now, on that reval some people's taxes went up.  Well, I'm sorry for that, that's the way taxes do go up a little, we've had some people whose taxes went down.  The ones' who went down, we all should thank them for paying more taxes than what they should have been paying.  The people's whose [taxes] went up, you shouldn't be mad that your taxes went up, you should be thanking the people that paid more tax than what they were supposed to be paying.  I really feel sorry for those people.”  

   Butler then reflected on all the changes that took place in Fort Fairfield over the past fifteen years, namely the new ambulance service that the town council approved a couple years ago to replace Crown Ambulance, who was getting out of the EMT/First Responder business and transitioning to solely transport between hospitals.  “We had to get a new ambulance service [because] we lost an ambulance service.  Within the town manager and the former chief, they decided that if we hire an ambulance service we're going to hire both fire and EMTs to fill this job.  [In the past] if we had a fire call and only had a fire chief working he can't go on that call.  So, we have to wait for help to come in from outside.  I don't want to wait for Presque Isle to show up, or Caribou to show up if my house is burning down here on 18 Cogswell Street because the fire chief cannot leave,” said Butler.  “Now we've got a full time staff that will leave and the last fire we had in three or four minutes they were at that residence.  We have to bite the bullet sometime.” 

   Butler also addressed the allegation that the town departments are wasting money.  “We are not wasting taxpayer money, we never have been.  But the town manager, she sees that all the budgets are spent the way they're supposed to be spent.  She really needs the support from this town council because I've been with the phone calls where she's called a liar.  She gives out the information to people that ask for it and if they don't like it, they do not use it - the information.  She's been straightforward all the time.  So, Ms. Powers you have our support.”

   After Butler's opening comments, he invited anyone who wished to speak to come to the microphone.

   - crickets -