Petition seeks Wiscasset vote on planning funds at November election

Posted:  Monday, September 11, 2017 - 9:45am
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A petition was turned over to the Wiscasset town clerk Monday calling for a vote at the Nov. 7 general election to apply planning funds as of Nov. 30 to reducing taxes.

Selectmen will take up the petition when they meet at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 12 to finalize the election ballot.

The petition asks for a “Referendum ballot, to transfer the remaining balance of the Municipal Planning Account, as of November 30, 2017 into the Fund Balance (surplus) for the purpose of reducing the 2018 tax commitment.” It was circulated by former selectman William Barnes and contained approximately 190 signatures. Barnes turned in the petition at 8:20 a.m. Monday, Sept. 11.

“It took me less than four days to collect the number of signatures I needed,” said Barnes, adding many signers thanked him for doing this. “They didn’t appreciate the way the June vote was overturned.”

Town Clerk Linda Perry said she expected to verify the petition Monday. State statutes require 179 signatures of registered Wiscasset voters, 10 percent of the last gubernatorial election.

The petition comes less than a month after a special town meeting when voters, by a show of hands, 56-29, passed a $66,764 planning budget restoring the town planner position. The action reversed a June vote at the polls when voters rejected the planning article, 464-256.

“The November vote guarantees every voter in town will have the opportunity to cast a ballot, which is how it was in June when close to 25 percent of the voters cast absentee ballots,” Ben Rines Jr., vice chair of the select board, commented.

Both Rines and Selectman Bob Blagden wanted a November vote on the planning article when the Wiscasset Area Chamber of Commerce submitted its petition in July calling for the special town meeting. The select board instead sought a legal opinion from the Portland law firm of Bernstein Shur to see if the board was bound by the wording of the Chamber’s petition calling for the open town meeting.

“The Board must honor a properly submitted petition request by calling for a special town meeting within 60 days of the petition submission or by placing the article before voters at the next scheduled town meeting, unless the Board determines it is reasonable to refuse to bring it to voters at all,” concluded attorney Shana Cook Mueller.

Select Board Chairman Judy Colby could not immediately be reached for comment Monday morning.