Wiscasset votes to stop MDOT lawsuit

Posted:  Tuesday, April 17, 2018 - 8:15pm

Wiscasset went to the polls on April 17 to decide whether or not to continue the lawsuit against Maine Department of Transportation over the Route 1 downtown project. The results were yes, 303; no, 578, a nearly 2-1 margin, which means the lawsuit will not go forward.

Selectmen's chair Judy Colby said she was glad the people had had their say, and she hoped the town would be able to move forward. “This has been hard on the town,” she said.

Selectman Katharine Martin-Savage said that while she was personally disappointed, she acknowledged the people had spoken. 

Both were hopeful Wiscasset could put the issue behind it. As the news spread, people opposed to continuing the lawsuit came to the Wiscasset Community Center for an impromptu celebration.

How Wiscasset and MDOT move forward from here is yet to be determined. As late as Friday, the two were facing each other in a courtroom, arguing over the town’s request for an injunction preventing MDOT from demolishing the Haggett building. No opinion has been rendered so far, and since selectmen voted down the consent agreement the attorneys negotiated, and the suit filed in February, MDOT has been silent about its plan to build a parking lot on the space.

Another issue is how Wiscasset will pay its already-accrued legal bills. Downtown property owner Ralph Doering III, who has had his own lawsuit against MDOT, had offered to pay $75,000 toward the town’s legal expenses. It was an offer selectmen agreed would have to be put to voters. Whether or not the offer still stands in light of the no vote is not known; both Martin-Savage and Colby declined to say if the town might consider accepting the funds, saying the issue would have to be discussed by the full board.

Selectmen meet next on April 24.

There was a steady turnout at the polls for most of the day. At the end of polling, 881 of the town's approximately 2,800 voters had cast ballots, including 230 absentee ballots. More residents voted than the 722 who voted on the original MDOT issue in 2016.