Convention Roundtables

(from Maine Townsman, August/September 2007)
Liz Chapman, Freelance Writer

Municipal officials attending this year’s MMA Convention will be given multiple chances to ask questions and offer opinions on some of the most pressing issues facing Maine local governments during roundtable sessions Wednesday afternoon, October 3.

The roundtable sessions are a response to past convention evaluations and suggestions from several municipal officials about how to make convention sessions more informative and helpful. Each of the 10 or more roundtables will allow for an open exchange among municipal officials and other convention attendees about their concerns and problems, as well as their ideas and proposed solutions.

Each roundtable will be repeated four times between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to give attendees an opportunity to take in multiple discussions and ask more questions. Resource people will facilitate each roundtable discussion starting out with a brief presentation followed by the interactive discussion of the roundtable participants and Q & A. The first roundtable discussion starts at 2:00 p.m., followed by repeat performances that begin at 2:45 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 4:15 p.m.

“It’s a new approach to training sessions at the MMA Convention,” said Michael Starn, MMA Convention Coordinator. “This format combines the knowledge of resource people with the experience of municipal practitioners to give a balanced perspective on each of these roundtable topics.”

One of the roundtable subjects that is sure to spark some interest is “Revaluations”. Bill Healey, president of the Maine Association of Assessing Officers, will be one of the facilitators for this session.

Healey says that revaluations are misunderstood by not only the public but many local government officials as well.

“I hope to give the (roundtable) groups a better understanding of how revaluations are done and why they are done,” said Healey, who assesses property for the towns of Yarmouth and Cumberland. “Even among municipal officials, there is confusion over why it’s done and how it’s done.”

As for the public, Healy said homeowners usually agree their house is worth its assessed value, when they look at it as an asset. “But once you tie that value to a tax rate, they get emotional and they get upset,” said Healey.

Subjects to be covered in the roundtables, with the facilitators/resource people, are listed below [there will be more resource people and possibly more topics added as we get closer to the convention]:

LD 1

Maine communities must comply with the municipal spending limitation system contained in the 2005 state law commonly known as LD 1. Under the limitation system, a municipality must calculate a “Property Tax Levy Limit” and must either adopt a budget that stays within it or use a special voting procedure to override the limit. This roundtable will discuss how to simplify the LD 1 process.

Facilitators/Resources: Kate Dufour and Michael Starn, MMA


Legal questions regarding local roads come up frequently when municipal officials gather. This roundtable gets to the heart of municipal road questions covering such issues as discontinuance, abandonment, paper streets, ownership, easements, prescriptive use, and municipal liability.

Facilitators/Resources: Peter Coughlan, Maine DOT, and Jim Katsiaficas, Attorney, Perkins Thompson

Conflict Resolution

Within the workings of government, conflict is inevitable. There are always going to be different views on issues. However, for government to function properly, those conflicts must eventually be resolved and actions taken. This roundtable discusses facilitation and mediation techniques that can be used to help resolve conflicts.

Facilitators/Resources: Roger Moody, Executive Director, Maine Association of Mediators

Solid Waste

Citizens view solid waste collection, disposal and recycling as important services provided by Maine municipalities. This roundtable will discuss changing solid waste technology, recycling challenges and disposal options.

Facilitators/Resources: Staff from Maine Resource Recovery Association, DEP and SPO

Public Safety Communications

Regionalized dispatching and new public safety communications technologies and structures are evolving in Maine. This roundtable will look at where we are in this state with public safety communications and explore the future.

Facilitators/Resources: Staff from Maine’s E 911 Bureau

Media Relations

Get tips from a veteran Maine newspaper reporter on how to handle media inquiries. This roundtable will also discuss how municipal officials can be proactive with their media relationships.

Facilitators/Resources: Liz Chapman, Dirigo News Service, Bangor

Tax Increment Financing

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is an economic development tool available to municipalities. The use of TIFs sometimes creates controversy in a community, and almost always generates a lot of questions. This roundtable will discuss the various ways that TIFs are used and answer some of the commonly-asked questions.

Facilitators/Resources: Jim Damicis, PolicyOne Research; Joan Fortin, Attorney, Bernstein Shur

Success Stories

Every Maine municipality has a success story…a municipal accomplishment to be proud of. Others can learn from those success stories. This roundtable will give you the opportunity to share your success stories and benefit from hearing those of others.

Facilitators/Resources: Mike Baran, DECD Office of Community Development; Anne Wright, MMA

Census Information

The 2010 Census is fast-approaching. Local government participation in helping to update addresses used for the census data gathering is extremely important. Census data is also extremely important to local governments since it is used to determine many federal allocation formulas. This roundtable will discuss the 2010 Census and the use and gathering of census data.

Facilitators/Resources: Representatives, U.S. Census Bureau

Personnel Practices

A maze of federal and state employment laws guide municipal personnel practices. This roundtable will discuss and answer questions about the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), leave of absence laws, employment discrimination, personnel policies, and other employment issues.

Facilitators/Resources: David Barrett, MMA Labor Relations & Personnel Services; Sue Pilgrim, MMA Legal Services


The revaluation of property in a municipality is often one of the most controversial actions ever taken by municipal officials. Decisions about who will conduct the revaluation and how it gets implemented are important ones that generate much discussion. This roundtable will look at the various issues and questions surrounding a municipal revaluation.

Facilitators/Resources: Bill Healey, Assessor, Cumberland/Yarmouth; Mike Rogers, Division of Property Tax, Maine Revenue Service