Gray secessionist group cites safety concerns

Mount Hunger Shore Road Secession Committee members Elisabeth Gravel and Daniel Bouchard present their case for secession during a public meeting held by the Town Council. 

GRAY — On Valentine’s Day, several residents from Mount Hunger Shore Road on the west side of Little Sebago Lake told the town of Gray they want to break up.

The Gray Town Council held a public meeting Tuesday night to discuss a proposal from Shore Road residents who want to secede from Gray and join the town of Windham. The effort is being led by the Mount Hunger Shore Succession Committee.

Elisabeth Gravel and her husband, Robert, are two residents on the five-member succession committee. She and fellow committee member Daniel Bouchard spoke during the public hearing Tuesday night.

“Safety in the territory is the overriding reason for the secession effort. The ability to live in peaceful enjoyment without fear in one’s home is an inherent right,” said Elisabeth Gravel. “The town of Gray simply cannot apply the necessary services to achieve this. This is no criticism of the town of Gray, or the manner in which they conduct the town.”

Mount Hunger Shore Road residents looking to secede feel the area where they live – approximately 194 acres in size – is geographically disconnected from the rest of the town. Despite being part of Gray, the area is accessible on land only through a longer stretch of Mt. Hunger Shore Road that is part of Windham.

The distance to downtown Gray, the secession committee says, limits their access to critical services provided by the town. The primary concerns center around safety and emergency services, highlighted by a fire in 2009 that destroyed a home on Mount Hunger Shore Road and an attempted burglary in 2012 at the Gravel residence.

“I think we’ve made improvements, and we still have to make improvements when it comes to police services,” said Town Manager Deborah Cabana to Elizabeth. “That’s a discussion that this council will continue to have. With regards to the snow removal, however, I think that’s something that we have remedied, because you did call me, and even if you went to Windham it would stay exactly the same.”

Though no one can seem to agree on how to spell the road’s name – the secession committee and Windham spell it “Hunger” while Gray spells it “Hungar”– Gray officials did seem to agree that steps could be taken to improve some services for the area, while still hoping that a split with Mount Hunger Shore residents could be avoided.

“In terms of geography, it’s not like we can move the lake,” said Town Councilor Lewis Mancini. “Other than that, I honestly think with a little effort, I would like to think we could address some of these issues.”

Dan Cobb was one of three other Gray residents to voice concerns about the secession proposal.

“This is a geography issue, and the geography has been this way long before anyone moved in there or bought a house there, so these folks knew or should have known the geography they were getting into,” said Cobb. “This seems to be a proposal that is perhaps in the interest of seven people or so who signed this, and is not is in the best interest of the rest of the town of Gray. That’s my humble opinion.”

Nonetheless, the succession committee plans to move forward with the next steps in the succession process.

The road forward, however, is not going to be an easy one. According to Gray town attorney Bill Dale, who was also elected moderator of the public hearing by the council (the only other person nominated, in jest, was Tom Brady), there are still several steps governed by state statute.

During the hearing, Dale explained that the Legislature will have two opportunities to approve or turn down the bid for secession. He also explained that there must be a referendum within the proposed secession territory, which, according to the secession committee, includes 14 registered voters. The Gray Town Council may also choose to hold a town-wide referendum. Those referenda are meant to inform the Legislature, which makes the final decision.

Calls for secession are not new on the western side of Little Sebago, where another group of local residents is also in the process of trying to secede from Gray. The Gray Secession Committee, which is much larger and abuts the proposed Mount Hunger Shore Road secession territory, is attempting to join the town of Raymond.

That group will have its own public hearing before the Gray Town Council on March 21, as announced at Tuesday’s meeting.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 123, or Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker

Mount Hunger Shore Road Secession Committee members Elisabeth Gravel and Daniel Bouchard present their case for secession during a public meeting held by the Town Council.