ALFRED, Maine - A familiar face is at the helm of the Board of York County Commissioners for the 2024 calendar year. Richard R. Dutremble of Biddeford, who is beginning his 18th year as the commissioner for District 2 – Arundel, Biddeford, Kennebunk, and Kennebunkport – said his election to the post Wednesday, January 3, marks his fifth or sixth term as chair of the five-member board.
The organizational meeting also saw discussion and a vote on a change in the meeting time – returning to 4:30 pm after a year at 5 pm – and other bread-and-butter matters.
Commission chairs are elected to the position annually by their peers. Dutremble, the sole commissioner who received a nomination, was elected in a 3-2 vote, with commissioners Donna Ring, who had expressed interest in the chair position, and Justin Chenette dissenting. Voting in favor were commissioners Robert Andrews, Richard Clark, and Dutremble.
Andrews, of Lebanon, who represents District 1 – Acton, Berwick, Cornish, Lebanon, Limington, Newfield, North Berwick, Parsonsfield, Shapleigh, and South Berwick – was elected vice chair 3-2, with Chenette, the vice chair in 2023, and Ring dissenting.
The return to a 4:30 pm meeting time from 5 pm was approved 3-2, with Andrews, Clark and Dutremble voting in favor, and Chenette and Ring dissenting.
The 5 pm meeting time was approved in January 2023 as a compromise when Chenette, elected in November 2022 on a transparency platform, initially proposed 6 pm. The 5 pm start time was implemented as a six-month trial that ultimately remained in effect for the year.
There was disagreement on the success of the 2023 time change. Chenette said it had been helpful, while Clark said he’s seen no significant uptick in public attendance.
“I think we’ve seen a clear demonstration this year that the extra half-hour grace period has been helpful,” in increasing a level of engagement with constituents said Chenette, in part. He said the 5 pm time has a benefit, and noted Cumberland County Commissioners meet at 5:30 pm. He questioned the justification for returning the meeting time to 4:30 pm, which he said would lessen the ability of the public to attend. He said the 5 pm start time had been successful, particularly for working people whom he said have a hard time making 4:30 pm – and even a 5 pm session.
Clark, who his entering his seventh year on the board, said he had not seen a significant increase in public involvement with the 5 pm start time. “I don’t find the last year has found any particular change in the number of people attending meetings,” said Clark. He noted that in his prior service as a selectman for 18 years, he found in that the only thing that brought people out to a meeting was a controversial issue, and in that case, folks would attend, no matter the time. “I disagree on the increase in people (attending), I haven’t seen it,” Clark said.
Clark pointed out that constituents may contact their commissioner by phone, email, or mail. People may attend meetings in person, or remotely on Zoom in real time. Meetings are posted on the county’s web page at: www.yorkcountymaine.gov/county-commissioners.
Ring said in the years when commissioners met at 7 pm there was “a decent turnout.” She said there are workers who don’t get home in time to tune in on Zoom until after 5. “I don’t think half an hour makes that much difference to the board, I think it would make a lot of difference to the citizens and taxpayers,” Ring said.
Commissioners voted that for 2024, meetings will be held on the first and third Wednesday of the month, except in June, July, and August when there will be one, unless a second meeting is needed. Meetings are held at the York County Government building at 149 Jordan Springs Road in Alfred. Zoom access is available with instructions on the agendas, which are posted on the website.
Among other organizational and housekeeping issues, commissioners voted that those who need an accident or incident report from the York County Sheriff’s Office would pay the same fee in 2024 as they did in 2021 - $20. Background check fees remain at $20, the same as in 2023, and those who need paperwork notarized will pay $5; $10 for attestations fees, the same as in 2020.
L-R: Richard R. Dutremble of Biddeford - Chair, Robert Andrews, of Lebanon - Vice Chair