Edgecomb is heading back to court, this time as the defendant in a Freedom of Access Act case. Last month, selectmen were denied by a District Court judge in seeking a restraining order agains resident Timothy Harrington. But Board Chairman Dawn Murray was successful in her individual complaint seeking a year-long protection order against Harrington.
But now, it’s Harrington who is suing the town. On Nov. 8, municipal officials received notice he filed a lawsuit in Wiscasset District Court to receive municipal records requested on Aug. 9.
In court, Murray testified Harrington began demanding FOAA request results within 24 hours, which eventually led to an estimated 300 additional email responses and 35 more FOAA requests. Harrington states the number of requests were closer to 18.
Murray is retired after serving 35 years in the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard. In the Marines, she served in the Judge Advocate General’s corps and responded to numerous FOAA requests. “I’ve never been asked to produce a response within 24 hours until now,” she told District Court Judge John Martin on Nov. 2.
One of Harrington’s FOAA requests was for the first page of all 2022 planning board applications. On Nov. 14, Murray told her fellow selectmen, once she had gathered the requested materials, her request for a temporary protection order was granted. “I delayed at that point because I didn’t want Harrington to claim we violated the order leading him to resume his contact with us,” she said.
Following the court decision, Murray reported she placed the first page of all 2022 planning board applications in a folder, and requested the bailiff give them to Harrington. During the selectmen’s meeting, Murray reported the lawsuit identified the first pages of the 2022 planning board applications as Harrington’s purpose in filing the lawsuit. Selectmen held an executive session to discuss the lawsuit. After the session, selectmen voted to retain the Jensen Baird law firm to respond to Harrington’s suit.
In other action, Edgecomb is joining peninsula neighbors Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor and Southport in seeking county American Rescue Plan Act funds in establishing a fiber optic cable internet network. Selectman Ted Hugger and broadband committee member Janet Blevins attended a recent workshop hosted by Manager Simon Thorne of Fidium which is part of Consolidated Communications. Hugger reported Blevins “dragged” him to the meeting. “I didn’t really want to go, but I’m glad I did, After all the fiber presentations I’ve heard over the years, this is the first one I could see really getting behind,” he said.
Blevins reported Fidium is proposing investing $3 million into the regional proposal. She added Thorne was asked what happens if Fidium didn’t receive enough subscriptions to cover its investment. “He told us ‘We need it, and we’re in it for the long run,’” she said.
Selectmen agreed to send a letter supporting the grant to the county commissioners.
The town received an unexpected cash windfall last week. Town Clerk Claudia Coffin reported Edgecomb received a $2,355 restitution payment court ordered after a woman’s accident three years ago snapped a utility pole. Selectman Mike Smith believed the windfall would assist in paying higher diesel fuel bills this winter. The town’s plowing contract has an escalator clause calling for additional funds if diesel fuel prices rise more than $3.50 per gallon. “With diesel at $6.87 per gallon, this will surely help. I don’t see the price going down anytime soon,” he said.
Selectmen are gearing up for the Fiscal Year 24 budget season. The board plans on inviting department heads, budget and school committee and planning board members to a Dec. 12 meeting to begin financial planning. “We know things are going to be more expensive, so let’s bring them in for a conversation,” Smith said.
Smith also updated selectmen about the town hall committee’s progress. He reported the committee will meet Nov. 15 to discuss future plans for the building. The committee also plans on using a county grant to survey the town hall property and an adjacent three-acre lot.
Selectmen meet next at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 28 in the town hall.