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Gorham Town Board holds off on passing budget as residents continue to challenge it

  • / Updated:
  • Rebecca Swift 

Wednesday’s meeting at Gorham Town Hall started off with privilege of the floor. One of the first people to speak was Tax Collector Adrienne Smith, who was one of the only town employees left out of getting a 4% raise in the 2023 tentative budget.

Smith attended last week’s meeting via Zoom, when the budget was unveiled. This week, she did not hold back on how she felt that meeting was handled. Specifically, when it came to the discussion surrounding why she wasn’t getting a pay increase.

Town of Gorham Tax Collector Adrienne Smith speaks candidly about the budget

“Deputy Supervisor Brian Case, implied the job was not being fulfilled and that discussions or plans were being made in regards to addressing this,” Smith said. “It was obvious Mr. Case was unaware of my attendance.”

Personnel issues go public: Is the Town of Gorham a toxic work environment?

Smith then said she has her own concerns since being elected as the Town of Gorham’s tax collector.

“There was no job description provided to me at any point for this position,” Smith said. “I was verbally told what the general job duties would include. And I did recently find out there is a written description, although it is out of date.”

Smith said the past tax collector expressed a willingness to train her, but took vacation the first and last week of the collection season, which she said are critical times.

“I was left with a book on how to use the tax-collection software and this was my only guidance at the time,” Smith said. “The environment was not welcoming. In May, my desk was removed. Just a table with a phone on it stood in its place. If there are issues with how the job is being executed I am fully open to discussion. I welcome having hard discussions that lead to improvement. To date, no one has reached out to discuss anything in regard to this collection season. Quite frankly, the current environment is toxic.”

“When I saw you this evening, I said, ‘Aha,’ finally, I need to talk to you!,” Town Supervisor Fred Lightfoote exclaimed. “There has been outreach by the bookkeepers office. She told me three times. I know I’ve reached out several times. Your phone doesn’t allows for messages to be left. I’ve sent several emails encouraging you to come in. We’ve tried numerous times. I’ve stopped at the house, and no one was home.”

Lightfoote said Smith should have followed up with him.

“I have tried numerous times to contact you so that we could talk some of this through,” Lightfoote said. “We can still change the budget, but I couldn’t just plug in increases without input from the board or input from you.”

What’s happening with the proposed Chateau Olivia?

The town passed a resolution to allow a wedding venue called Chateau Olivia on County Road 18 to go to the Planning Board. But residents have voiced concerns about traffic connected to the new business. The proposal still needs a Special Use Permit.

More: Part IV: Gorham residents worried about County Road 18 traffic; “It’s like we’re a NASCAR qualifying lane”

What’s next for the short-term rental law?

The short-term rental law was tabled, due to questions surrounding wastewater and disposal systems. Residents and board members pushed for more clarity surrounding adequate accommodations for the number of guests.

More: Part III: Should short-term rentals be regulated in the Town of Gorham? A proposed law sparks debate

Where is the optimism?

“From the town board’s perspective it was a very productive meeting,” Councilor Jake Chard said. “We were able to answer some questions and will follow-up on others.”

The public hearing regarding the budget was adjourned until this upcoming Monday. Chard said the board should have more answers to looming questions then. The hearing can’t be postponed past November 15, per New York State Law, according to Chard. The board has until the 20th to pass and submit the budget.