A continuing tale of life in the boonies
They'll just have to stand for it
Go to a selectmen's meeting, say in Middleton or Milton, and harken to the unending stream of criticism that these poor officials have to suffer from the general public. There those taxpayers sit! Row upon disgruntled row of 'em, waiting their turns to bellyache about next to nothing, while the good town fathers (and mothers, too, these days) have to fake at least a flicker of interest.
Well, these distant selectfolks ought to wizen up and study Farmington's infinitely preferable approach to town government, which is founded on the "why-feed-the-hand-that-bites-you" school of thought. Below, for those communities who wish to deal more effectively with their own grouchy residents, are a few basic, easily applied tips for the running of selectmen's meetings:
Rule No 1. is delightful in its simplicity - don't supply near enough seats. Think about it. Why create a comfy, cozy atmosphere for a bunch of agitators just waiting for their chance to yell, when you can keep them jammed out in a hallway for an hour or so with their varicose veins swelling to bursting point!
When you have dealt at leisure with your fire chief and police chief and road agent and there is eventually space enough in the pokey office you cunningly choose for your meeting, these hotheads will be so grateful for a chance to take the weight off their feet they almost hug you as they stumble past. This rule additionally prevents one crowd of rabblerousers overhearing the business of another and thus aborts the fearful progeny of any cross-pollenated sympathies generated in the lobby.
Rule No. 2 also has a psychological foundation - make agendas about as rare as the Kohinoor Diamond and don't supply additional background information. People are much more likely to be subservient, or at least off-balance, if they are deprived of the knowledge already in the hands of their adversaries.
Look, for example, at Rochester's mistake. Former city manager Rene Perry starts pumping out all kinds of paperwork for local residents and the press attending public meeting and before you can say "zero-increase budget" he has a face full of Rochester Taxpayers Association crazies, armed to the hilt with factoids, seriously affecting the status quo.
Rule No. 3 applies when the Disgruntled Ones have been admitted from the outer courtyard into the Inner Shoebox. Then, it's time to unleash the Tongues of Babel. This doesn't mean that selectmen have to talk Officialese, or Jargon, or Gobbledygook, even if they can. No, sirree. We're subtler than that! Everybody gabbles at once, is the ploy, which means that three selectmen, or five if your real lucky, plus a town administrator, simultaneously launch huge clouds of verbiage, the net result being the aural equivalent of tear gas.
But on with show…
At a recent meeting of Farmington Selectmen, it was revealed that Pratt and Whitney has donated a surplus computer to Farmington Fire Department. It was then wagered that such a news item would not make it into this column. Deputy Fire Chief Joel Plante also disclosed he had volunteers ready and willing to paint the town flagpole, only Rochester got there first.
It was announced that the public will have a chance to say goodbye to the retiring (but not shy) Sgt. Walter Brown on June 26 between the afternoon hours of 2 and 5 p.m. Cold cuts and chips, although not donuts, were briefly discussed.
Animal Control Officer John Fitch disclosing that Cocheco Valley Humane Society has stopped receiving canines while a virus rages, said he would hold any dogs himself.
"Where?" queried Selectman Barbara Spear.
"We will figure something out," replied Fitch mysteriously, thereby thwarting their future lucky neighbors of a chance to muster. Hmmm!
On the subject of injured animals, it was recalled these unfortunates used to be plugged, but such a practice was no longer in vogue.
"Don't print that," said an official, causing me to think that the town may cock a snook at fashion.
Fitch recounted the shooting of a Middleton dog that brought a lawsuit down on the head of the rifleman. Willis remembered a Lebanon, Maine man, way back, who had got shot outside a house and was then pulled inside.
"Don't print that," repeated the official, but surely we have to let the grumblers in the corridor know the juicy tidbits they missed to make their agony the more acute.
Farmington Corner's best-loved angler, Ken Beaupre, is fading out of public life and will be toasted by the School Board at an open house to be held in the Burtman-Rondeau Auditorium on June 15 from 5 to 7 p.m. Then he will be roasted at Farmington Safety Building on June 30 at 7 p.m., with tickets for this event priced at $10. Jim Black and Dave Vachon have full information.
Goodwin Library's Summer Reading Program starts on June 29, and Dorinda asks that everyone be signed up by June 22. One of the highlights will come in August when Farmington's own Great Ladini puts on a magic show. But could he really do the impossible and fit 10 chairs into the selectmen's meeting? Full details from 755-2944. (About the reading, that is.)
Farmington Corner recently celebrated its 200th column with a surprise party near the former site of Hackett’s Crevasse. As some revelers are unnerved by the prospect of social flak for attending, and thereby seeming to encourage what is mistaken in some quarters for drivel, their anonymity will be respected. Suffice to say a hearty thanks to all this column's friends in high and low places.
June 13, 1992
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